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On being human
Related posts. App will help deaf Elton John fans hear the music Read more. Not that we would give up what we have loved: we would add what a new life demands. In a new age men must acquire a new capacity, must be men upon a new scale and with added qualities. We study the world, but not yet with intent to school our hearts and tastes, broaden our natures, and know our fellow men as comrades rather than as phenomena; with purpose, rather, to build up bodies of critical doctrine and provide ourselves with theses.
That, surely, is not the truly humanizing way in which to take the air of the world. Man is much more than a rational being, and lives more by sympathies and impressions than by conclusions. It darkens his eyes and dries up the wells of his humanity to be forever in search of doctrine.
We need wholesome, experiencing natures, I dare affirm, much more than we need sound reasoning. Take life in the large view, and we are most reasonable when we seek that which is most wholesome and tonic for our natures as a whole; and we know, when we put aside pedantry, that the great middle object in life, — the object that lies between religion on the one hand, and food and clothing on the other, establishing our average levels of achievement, — the excellent golden mean, is, not to be learned, but to be human beings in all the wide and genial meaning of the term.
Does the age hinder? Do its mazy interests distract us when we would plan our discipline, determine our duty, clarify our ideals? It is the more necessary that we should ask ourselves what it is that is demanded of us, if we would fit our qualities to meet the new tests.
Let us remind ourselves that to be human is, for one thing, to speak and act with a certain note of genuineness, a quality mixed of spontaneity and intelligence. This is necessary for wholesome life in any age, but particularly amidst confused affairs and shifting standards. Genuineness is not mere simplicity, for that may lack vitality, and genuineness does not.
We expect what we call genuine to have pith and strength of fibre. Genuineness is a quality which we sometimes mean to include when we speak of individuality. Individuality is lost the moment you submit to passing modes or fashions, the creations of an artificial society; and so is genuineness. No man is genuine who is forever trying to pattern his life after the lives of other people, — unless indeed he be a genuine dolt.
Woodrow Wilson on Being Human - The Atlantic
But individuality is by no means the same as genuineness; for individuality may be associated with the most extreme and even ridiculous eccentricity, while genuineness we conceive to be always wholesome, balanced, and touched with dignity. It is a quality that goes with good sense and self-respect. It is a sort of robust moral sanity, mixed of elements both moral and intellectual.
It is found in natures too strong to be mere trimmers and conformers, too well poised and thoughtful to fling off into intemperate protest and revolt. Laughter is genuine which has in it neither the shrill, hysterical note of mere excitement nor the hard metallic twang of the cynics sneer, — which rings in the honest voice of gracious good humor, which is innocent and unsatirical. Speech is genuine which is without silliness, affectation, or pretense.
That character is genuine which seems built by nature rather than by convention, which is stuff of independence and of good courage. Nothing spurious, bastard, begotten out of true wedlock of the mind; nothing adulterated and seeming to be what it is not; nothing unreal, can ever get place among the nobility of things genuine, natural, of pure stock and unmistakable lineage.
It is a prerogative of every truly human being to come out from the low estate of those who are merely gregarious and of the herd, and show his innate powers cultivated and yet unspoiled, — sound, unmixed, free from imitation; showing that individualization without extravagance which is genuineness. But how? By what means is this self-liberation to be effected, — this emancipation from affectation and the bondage, of being like other people? Is it open to us to choose to be genuine?
I see nothing insuperable in the way, except for those who are hopelessly lacking in a sense of humor. It depends upon the range and scale of your observation whether you can strike the balance of genuineness or not.
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- Book review: ‘On Being Human’ by Jen Pastiloff.
If you live in a small and petty world, you will be subject, to its standards; but if you live in a large world, you will see that standards are innumerable, — some old, some new, some made by the noble-minded and made to last, some made by the weak-minded and destined to perish, some lasting from age to age, some only from day to day, — and that a choice must be made amongst them.
It is then that your sense of humor will assist you. You are, you will perceive, upon a long journey, and it will seem to you ridiculous to change your life and discipline your instincts, to conform to the usages of a single inn by the way. You will distinguish the essentials from the accidents, and deem the accidents something meant for your amusement. The strongest natures do not need to wait for these slow lessons of observation, to be got by conning life: their sheer vigor makes it impossible for them to conform to fashion or care for times and seasons.
But the rest of us must cultivate knowledge of the world in the large, get our offing, reach a comparative point of view, before we can become with steady confidence our own masters and pilots. The art of being human begins with the practice of being genuine, and following standards of conduct which, the world has tested. If your life is not various and you cannot know the best people, who set the standards of sincerity, your reading at least can be various, and you may look at your little circle through the best books, under the guidance of writers who have known life and loved the truth.