On becoming human

Written from the perspective of an alien that ends up living in a mathematician’s body to stop him from solving a major math problem, Matt Haig’s “The humans” made me realize one crucial thing – I was not the only one looking at humans from an alien’s perspective. As I found out later, the message of this book is orbiting around depression, and Matt is trying to teach us how to accept our human limitations and quirks, how to reenter our lives as humans and how to gradually get out of the dark cloud brought by mental health problems. The book is a step by step guide on learning to love humans, thus to love ourselves. This approach makes a lot of sense, but I interpreted the novel slightly differently when I read it, with respect to my own concepts and problems, so I’ll focus on my own analysis.

The first chapter of this book made me laugh not just because of the author’s distinct humor, but I also found joy and relief, finally reading about the world in the way I was trying to see it. Just like Hesse’s Harry Haller, in my teen years I tried so hard to develop this objective view upon life, thinking that was the only way I could ever get closer to understanding our purpose in the universe. Of course, no human will ever be able to achieve that goal. First of all, our sense organs have evolved in a 3-dimensional manner, when we might actually live in a 4-dimensional space (time being here a 5th dimension). Secondly, why go that far when we can’t even understand how life must be like for other creatures on our planet? Letting aside the fact that subjectiveness and the interpretation of everything and anything are gifts of ours. Why be like the whole universe, cold and still? Plus, there might not even be a meaning to it all. So, back then, I was kind of making a purpose of finding a purpose. That could only lead to an unnecessary distancing from people and a denial of my own imagination and spirit of observation. Probably.

So you can imagine the joy I felt reading exactly about this objective perspective I was so keen on. But there’s one problem here – the system of reference of this objectiveness was the human’s world. The alien itself was not at all objective and neither did it want to, it lived its reality. It was just learning how to walk, talk, feel and act like a human for the very first time – which can be pretty traumatizing for anyone.

As I continued reading, I couldn’t understand why and how this alien was beginning to accept his new human form and to actually start liking it. But as I kept reading I understood that, yes, humans make a lot of mistakes, are violent or even cruel sometimes, but there also are some incredible things that they do: music, art, poetry, prose, dance, creating, feeling and, what the narrator said to be the most powerful of all, love. After Matt Haig comes with many arguments in our favor (us as humans), he finally makes this list of advice for a human, that really makes you take a deep breath and think about starting to enjoy your existence on planet Earth, just as you are, because being yourself is, in fact, neither that easy, nor that common. And, after all, humans can be pretty awesome. It’s a pity trying to deny your own nature and give up being a human just for an idealistic, cool, lifeless life.

“Advice for a human.”

  • “You can’t find happiness looking for the meaning of life. Meaning is only the third most important thing. It comes after loving and being.”
  • “A paradox: The things you don’t need to live—books, art, cinema, wine, and so on—are the things you need to live.”
  • “Make sure, as often as possible, you are doing something you’d be happy to die doing.”
  • “You are lucky to be alive. Inhale and take in life’s wonders. Never take so much as a single petal of a flower for granted.”

2 thoughts on “On becoming human”

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