by Patricia Vanert~
What makes us human?
I have been pondering this question all week? What is it exactly that makes us
Is the fact that we must care for our children for such a long time that makes us
human. Elephants care for their children just as long as humans do.
This week I thought about sea turtles, the female builds a nest and lays 100
eggs at a time, she camouflages the nest and then goes back to the sea. She
will return to the same spot several times during the mating season to build
more nests and lay more eggs.
When the eggs hatch the young turtles are guided by the stars in the nighttime
sky to lead them to the sea.
This is where humans come into the story. Our artificial lights have caused
problems for some of the sea turtles, instead of heading to the sea they turn
inward away from the sea and go to our lights.
So some places have laws restricting the amount of light when the sea turtles
are hatching, some people stay up all night to guide them to the sea.
Sea turtles are so fragile when they are born, yet they survive in the sea alone.
What makes us human?
As a species we are the new kids on the block. Homo sapiens first made an
appearance here on earth 140,000 years ago. Anyone would agree that that is a
long time ago. Right?
Those sea turtles who don’t parent their children and now need our help to
keep their nesting areas safe have been on earth 100 million years. They lived
with the dinosaurs.
There is more too. Crocodiles 200 million years, cockroaches 300 million years
and earthworms and bacteria go back 600 million years.
So it can’t be longevity, or survival of the fittest or adaptabllitv that makes s
What is it that makes us human?
Compassion? Don’t get me started on this one. I will come back to this latr
What is it that makes us human? Is it our opposable thumbs – there are other
non-human primates who have hands like ours.
I once had a cat with extra toes. On her front feet it was opposable like our
thumbs, she picked up her food and ate out of her paws.
I know what you are thinking. What makes us human is that we are NEVER born
without extra fingers and toes.
But you should know that it does happen it’s just that they are removed in the
hospital before the baby goes home.
What makes us human? Is it our tools that we use to make our life easier? I
once heard of crows fishing. They would pull up the fishing lines that had been
left in the water by humans. The story goes that the man was wondering why all
of a sudden he never had any fish. So one day he left a camera, on the film was
a crow pulling up the fishing line and taking the fish that was caught.
Chimps use sticks to get what must be yummy ants from their hills.
I’ve heard of pigs luring chickens with corn. So others use tools not just us.
Is it architecture? We have some impressive structures.
But all I have to say is that bees have hives, birds build nests and ants have
their hills. Plus all of the small animals that live underground. Gophers, rabbits,
Is it having a hierarchy? Someone has to be in charge right?
Bees have their queen and there are alpha dogs.
I once had a small dog who grew to be very old and commanded a lot of respect
from other dogs in the neighborhood. Near the end of her life when she walked
down the sidewalk other dogs stepped aside and let her pass.
My friend referred to her as the Grand Dame, royalty. If you are thinking that
she must have been a great big dog, surely a Sheppard. You would be wrong,
she was a cairn terrier, she weighed 1 71bs and looked exactly like Toto. I once
saw her stand up to an Akita on the loose. She put herself in front of my
daughter to protect her. Like all good leaders she never doubted herself.
Is it our ability to communicate? Just because we can’t understand animals
call doesn’t mean that it is just noise.
A lot of the sounds we make are quite probably just noise.
Is it that we love that makes us human? No there are lots of stories on the
internet about love between animals. A while back I was trying to keep my
bedroom free from pets during the day. One day I came home from work,
opened the door to my bedroom to find my dog “Emily” curled up on my bed
with her best friend, my cat “Matthew” When Emily saw me she sat up gave me a
very dopey smile, sighed and snuggled up with Matthew again.
Common wisdom is that dogs and cats hate each, actually dogs chase anything
that runs and cats run from anyone that is chasing them. Except these two they
played together, slept together, ate together.
Emily stayed with Matthew at the end of his life. For two days she never left his
side. All of our pets knew that Matthew was dying but we didn’t. To us it was a
Is it our ability to adapt? To change as circumstances warrant.
One day I was in my car waiting to make a left hand turn at a stop light. I
looked out my window and saw a group of crows. When the light turned green
they hopped off the curb and crossed the street in the crosswalk. I had no
choice but to wait for them to cross the street before I turned left.
I’ve always lived in a society with cars so having a vehicle is normal for me.
Crows have a wide range in their habitat. It would not be unusual for them to
live where vehicles can’t go.
So who has adapted to their surroundings?
That brings me back to compassion. Is it what makes us human? All of the
stories I’ve told you this evening are about animals displaying what could be
described as human traits.
Merriam-Webster defines compassion as: the sympathetic consciousness of
others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it
How many times have you found yourself with a flat tire, stuck in the rain
waiting for the bus without an umbrella, walking to school because you lost
your bus card, and your friends waived to you as they rode by. Where is the
Each and every pet I have had in my life have had compassion. My dogs have
stayed by my side when I have been in distress. They’ve licked my tears, and
kept me warm when I have been sick.
So once again I must ask what makes us human?
Does anyone know?
Can anyone tell me what makes us human?
I will move on to the second word. Trafficking. To carryon traffic, to travel over
The word trafficking is a verb and alone it’s a rather innocuous word.
We all know what traffic is, it’s what you have to deal with on the way to work
or school in the morning.
It’s on the radio and television in the morning and the afternoon. There are
radio and television reporters whose job it is to tell us where all of the cars are
and which roadways are backed up.
So how can a word as innocuous as trafficking have any other meaning?
There is one definitlon left in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. To trade or
barter. Now that changes things doesn’t it? All of a sudden the innocuous word
takes on new meaning. We are no longer watching the television to find out
how traffic is moving. We are trading and bartering or trading and selling.
Human trafficking – the trade and barter of humans.
I have no stories about animals trafficking. Because what I have seen and
experienced doesn’t fit the scenario.
It takes humans with currency which we invented to barter and sell and trade
I hope I’ve given you something to think about tonight.
Those of you who know me, know that this has been an extraordinary year for
me. It has been a year of change and growth. I have had a lot of time to think
about what kind of person I want to be and have decided that every day I will
give someone I don’t know a compliment.
It’s my way of staying centered and human.