Mum and Maria are sitting on the veranda. Maria is in the shade of the parasol. On the table between them is a notebook with lots of scribbles.
Mum: What are you writing?
Maria: A blog post, I think.
Mum: About what?
Maria (quoting): “Are we trying to not be human?”
Mum (laughs): Pixie cuts or humanity, there’s no middle ground with you, is there?
Maria: … no.
I keep seeing more and more ways our society wants to avoid the fact that we’re human beings. That we live in human bodies. It has a tinge of desperation to it. Sometimes it gets harmful and dangerous, like a weird version of dehumanizing someone: oh, we’re not like them, they’re uncivilized and animalistic and basic, while we are modern humans who are above all that. Other times it’s almost funny, the lengths we’ll go to in our denial.
I am not a medical professional, a professional philosopher, or a goddess, so these are only my personal, humble observations. But there seems to be some basic truths to being human that there’s just no getting around. You exist in a body that is basically a sack of meat (with maybe some kind of spirit or soul or you-ness in there, too). Where you are born is a matter of pure chance. You will make mistakes. You will change, constantly, in a million different ways. There is a lot of shit you can’t control.
So, because we’re so delightfully human, we try to control everything.
We control our bodies, in hope we won’t have to deal with the messy unpredictability of having a body. If we can just do the right things, avoid the right things, our bodies will become optimized, self-running machines that never fail or bother us. Our ability, strength, stamina, and “health” will become reliable and unchanging, until we, at the respectable age of ninety-eight, suddenly collapse from a quick case of heart failure while on our daily, two hour long mountain hike — a long, perfect life and a quick, perfect death. All of this attainable for everyone, so long as we do the right things. Or don’t do the wrong things.
Food especially has become a particular Holy Grail or Philosopher’s Stone. Nobody seems to even question it, that food is now a loudly declared cure-all for absolutely everything. That the way “food becomes medicine” is mostly by not eating particular things. The “right” diet can supposedly cure cancer, anxiety, hormonal issues, lost limbs, hair loss, and ME/CFS! Yes, ladies and gentlemen and everyone else, I said cure! Just sort out your eating and your body will never trouble you again!
(I tried turmeric supplements. No, it didn’t heal my ME/CFS, unfortunately.) (Also, there’s no diet that will “cure” the things mentioned above. Please go see your medical professional for actual, evidence-based treatment).
The 2019 control craving is weirdly obsessed with purity. I always find it interesting how so many people loudly declare they’re not religious, but still strive to be as pure as possible. Who is this purity for? And who has the authority to declare that something is dirty, and that dirty is a bad thing? This kind of language is everywhere.
If you use (well, buy), the right skin care, you’ll become so beautiful that you don’t need that dirty, conceiving makeup. If you eat the clean food, you won’t want the dirty food. If you never speak your mind, nobody can ever say you’re wrong, and your reputation remains spotless. If you argue perfectly, your fights will never get dirty. If you dispose of all your unnecessary stuff, you won’t be visibly tarnished by your filthy desire for mortal means.
Now that our environment is collapsing, well, what are we to do but make sure we at least remove our makeup with reusable, home-made cotton pads, hand sewn from scrap fabric, to ease even the tiniest smidgen of our soiled, overwhelmed conscience? (or was that just me?)
With the life-changing, privileged magic of minimalism, “clean eating” (yes, in quotes, because I find that term so damaging), a proper skin care routine and vegan fish oil capsules, you can get the ultimate starting point for perfect control over your future: a clean slate.
How’s that for purity?
Except humans don’t get clean slates. Maybe once, but we’re usually too… newborn to fully appreciate it. Instead, we get history.
User accounts we made online to virtually try on a new hair style. Stupid older siblings who set the standard before we even existed (I imagine — I was lucky enough to be one of those stupid oldest siblings). Somewhere, someone has a picture of when we fell asleep with our face planted in someone else’s lap at a party, and it does not look like an innocent nap. We have scars, and old tax receipts we need to keep for at least a decade, and voices in our heads that whisper to us from the past.
There’s no such thing as a clean slate, no cure for our messy history. We know this. We ignore this. We keep trying to prove it false, our own humanity.
How very human of us.
PS: you, my readers, are amazing and I am still overwhelmed by your kindness after my previous blog post. So thank you. Please stay human, you do it so beautifully.