How to be Humane

“To help others, one must first establish one’s own humane character” – Confucius

To be humane is to be concerned for the well being of others, and to work within one’s means to achieve such an end. This is my basic definition of the word, but it ought to be fleshed out, largely because the concept can be rendered in various ways and with different ends in mind. My scope will remain on the common good of human beings.

One can spend their lives in a University pursuing what it means to be human, and leave in old age knowing less than when they first entered the institute. Whereas a farmer working the land under the hot sun can demonstrate more about our humanity in one day, than a lifetime in paradise eating fruit without spoil or decay; that is to say, that our lives are actualized more so through the practical, rather than the theoretical.

Perhaps we can begin by asking what are the primary things required for coexistence. Obviously we need air to breathe, water to drink, and land to grow food. Certainly it doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out the importance of preserving these elements. For without these basic things we are unable to build a foundation of any sort. In other words, the ecosystem has to be one of our primary and mutual concerns as a human species.

Now if we are to preserve the natural habitat, then we’ll have to get along with others. So the environment can’t be the only value of importance, social relations will be of significance too. Self-care will also remain a priority if we are to participate in this endeavor. Therefore the environment, social agreements and personal wellbeing are fundamental to our survival.

Due to the fact that we are interdependent creatures, and possess the capacity for cooperation, our successful relations will largely depend on our ability to be independent and/or self-reliant. Thus autonomy, creativity and integrity will be paramount for such a state. This brings us back to the opening quote by the philosopher Confucius:

“To help others, one must first establish one’s own humane character”

The development of character takes precedence. We can’t give to others what we don’t have. To achieve something of greatness, to refine our natural talents and/or gifts, we have to exercise virtue. If we are determined to do the right things for others, then we will have to balance resolve with compassion. Such a mean will not come easily, but with ongoing practice it can become second nature.

Therefore this rendering of what it means to be humane implies fostering an equanimous disposition; a state of mind that allows for adaptability and cool judgement. So as custodians of this good earth, I believe it is our responsibility to get clear about the values that actually bond us as one in our humanity. What are the values that preserve the foundation by which humans can grow in their uniqueness? What do you bring to the world at large?

About Philosopher Muse

An explorer of volition and soul, a song under a night sky and a dream that forever yearns to be.
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15 Responses to How to be Humane

  1. inese says:

    If everybody sorted out the primary things, it would suffice to have a long and happy life.
    Hope all is well Jason.

  2. Author says:

    Excellent words of wisdom. Thank you for sharing, Jason!

  3. EricR says:

    Hi Jason. Thanks for this valuable reflection. Indeed, reflecting on one’s character and what is its best expression is an exercise sadly absent from the “I want it now” culture I see daily.

    I sometimes wonder if developing our individual humanity comes down to these 2 simple ideas:

    1. For oneself – cultivate personal happiness
    2. For others – practice kindness

    I know there is a lot involved in the application of these ideas, but they seem like a good starting point.

  4. Beck says:

    I couldn’t agree more! Well said.

  5. ashok says:

    Good one. I wrote sometime back that Kindness and Compassion are my religion – in my post What is Your Religion

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