Human, or Person

Sometimes I think about, what if aliens kept humans as pets? Raised them from babies in isolation, without human language, without society. What would a human be like, outside of other humans?

Not a person.

As Abeba Birhane points out beautifully in her talk at NCrafts and article in Aeon, we aren’t people alone. We form ourselves in our interactions. “A person is a person through other persons.” A baby (while homo sapiens) is less of a person than an adult, because the adult has connections, the adult participates in many systems within society.

Every hear that saying “You are the sum of the five people you hang out with most”? Yeah. Good approximation.

We get meaning from interaction with others. We form our self through this. Most of our relationships are not transactional, we’re not in it for some end goal — the interactions have intrinsic value. They build and reflect who we are. That’s enough!

If you have a friend you wish you could do more for, know that being a friend is itself a thing. Listening, being present, sharing a reality with a person — this is already a thing. Often we help each other out in tangible ways, and that feels great. But a simple “I hear you, I see you” — we can’t live without that, we can’t be a person without that.

Without each other, might as well sit by the food bowl and yowl.