Tuesday, December 31, 2013

No more "only human"! (And other things I wish would happen in 2014)

I don't normally fool with New Year's Eve blahblahblah.  Something has been on my mind, forwarded by a few conversations and perhaps by just viewing 12 Years a Slave at last.  But here's my quibble, my phrase I would banish first of all from the lexicon if I were somehow to ascend to the office of Language Despot.

"Only human."

As in, some variation of "he shouldn't have done that, but what are you going to say? He's only human," or "she shouldn't have said that, that has really messed things up, but you know, she's only human," or "I can't help it, what do you expect from me?  I'm only human."

Stop it.  Now.

Genesis 1:27 first of all: humankind is made in the image of God, male and female both.  Who else gets to claim that one?  (Our cats might think they are gods, but nothing in Genesis supports this claim.)  This isn't exactly the kind of thing that makes the phrase "only human" make any sense at all.

The psalmist gets it, a little bit (139:14): "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."  No matter how much we degrade it, being human is a pretty amazing thing.

If nothing else, the Christmas season (and we're still in it, remember) should remind us Christians of one amazing thing about humanity; Jesus was human.  Everybody remember the phrase that has shredded the brains of theologians for centuries?  "Fully God and fully human"?  That the one God and Lord of us all should have deigned to squeeze all of that God-ness into human form should be forever and always an impediment against demeaning our own humanness or using it as a cop-out for our own stupidities or evils.  To look at Jesus is not only the closest we're ever going to come to seeing what God is like on this earth, it is the best expression of what it means to be human as well.

If you have to find some way to excuse the evil words or deeds of another, find another way to say it. Maybe "he shouldn't have done it, but what are you going to say?  He's as fallen as anybody."  Or "Wow, she shouldn't have said that, but hey, we're all sinners here."  Not only does it not demean our "fearfully and wonderfully made" humanity, but perhaps it forces us to look to our own fallenness or sinfulness at the same time?

Theo-linguistic rant over.  For now.

Other things I wish would happen in 2014:

I wish I wouldn't have to write any more blog posts about my health, even if those are the ones that get read the most.

I wish that by this time next year, I'm writing this blog from a new location, if I have time to write it at all what with settling into a new calling and all that.

I wish that the Yankees would miss the playoffs for a second season in a row and that the Pirates and Royals would play in the World Series.  (I didn't say all these wishes were realistic.)

I wish another phrase would be laid to rest for good: "the Olympic movement."  It's not a movement, for pete's sake, it's a corporate empire.

I wish that popular music would be less about desperate cries for attention and more about ... well, virtually anything else.

I wish that the Minnesota Orchestra labor dispute would be settled in a way that allows everybody to make a living and to get back to being a good orchestra.

I also wish, speaking of classical music, that the clapping-between-movements thing would be settled once and for all, so I can know if it's even worth bothering to go to concerts anymore.

I wish I would recover my ability to read novels.  Historical stuff, biographies, non-fiction in general; I can get engrossed just fine.  Fiction has failed to do that for me for a while now and that pains me.

I wish that the duck guy with the beard would be strapped into a chair and forced to watch 12 Years a Slave on endless loop until either he gets it or his brain explodes, his choice.

I wish that people would really get just how much World War I has shaped the world, as the centennial of its beginning approaches.

And I wish that your 2014, and mine, would be not merely happy, but joyful.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I understand where you are coming from - especially when this phrase is used as an excuse (which is where most of your examples are coming from). But, I've heard this phrase used predominantly as a comforting phrase to people who feel like they need to be perfect. We can't be perfect, we're only human. So while I agree, this shouldn't be an excuse or cop-out for doing something wrong, I also think this phrase holds powerful meaning to those that need to be reminded that it is okay to make a mistake, to do something wrong, to fall short - because we're all onl --- hehe, I won't say it again, but you know where I was going.

  3. But I think there are better ways to say even that particular word of comfort, ways with more affirmation to them, and support and comfort in the face of whatever has transacted, things that indicate "you are not alone" or something similar.