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Are we trying to not be human?

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.


  1. Sarah says

    What a great post! I think I am going to have to print this out and keep it where I can see it often.

  2. So very true. As much as we would like for our lives to be a movie, that is just not reality. But for all of its complications, somehow, life is still beautiful and oh so interesting?so we keep going…

  3. Daniel says

    Hei 🙂 Hyggelig å høre fra deg. Takk for tankene dine.

  4. Ianeira says

    You are very right with your observations I think.
    What I hate the most about this all-or-nothing-instagram mentallity that so many seem to have, is that is mixes things that actually could help people with so much pressure.
    I have ADD and a more balanced diet and a organised home really help me with my symptoms. Also exercise. But these things, while perfectly healthy parts of living, get so messed up with ideas of thinnes, perfect houses and this purity. And when I try to make my life better, I’m automaticly thinking in this absolutes. If I miss a day of exercise I feel like a failure instead of just starting over the next day. This pressure is less that helpful. It’s harmful. Not to mention when this all get’s mixed up with tons of missinformation.
    [I tried saffron for my depression. It didn’t do shit. :-/ The antidepressant I’m on now works great and I’m lucky to get no side effects! :D]

  5. Liesbeth says

    Yes, beautifully written and right on. Everything is constantly being taken to extremes, as if we’re competing against each-other to be the healthiest, most productive, most zen (a contradiction if there ever was one). And those extremes are harmful while the ‘common sense’ version, though less glamorous, is usually good for you (but not mandatory!). I think it’s a sad side effect of the otherwise great meritocracy + the www and social media. Instead of comparing ourselves with our own peers, friends and family (which is stressful enough already), we’re now comparing ourselves with the most talented people world-wide and/or influencers who make it their job to present a picture of perfection. And think anyone can have it all if they just try hard enough. I’m healthy and pretty happy, still I combat perfectionism & jealousy on a regular basis.

  6. Jarl Magnus Tollefsen says

    I think this blog is so much of a niche, I can reveal my cover with impunity.

    With self-effacing glee, and grand care, I have been observing you from the midst of your ranks and lives. I am what you think of as a “stranger”. Actually I feel my first urge to write in earnest to you, because here’s the surprise you’ve thrown up for me.

    This – your description of humankind, does not baffle or rebuke my science of modern apes. It is all but clear to us whom you name alien, from the stars beyond your stars – that woman and man are rascals of the swamps. We see your circus of the jungle, play itself out from highrise attics to the asfalt streets. You’re not fooling anyone, and we all know, that neither are you fooling each other. We see your struggles for the height of life, where the clusters of fruits ripen and let fall as the biological rules for the cosmarchy of all your common lives. Too human, you say? Nothing but commonhood. Every human effort scientifically decends, by ploy or force, by wit or pity – into the reign of animals.

    My awe is but due to this: do you so scarce and ever, in a lifetime barely and rarely ask yourself the question: will I vanish into thin air, if I make of my life what I wish, instead of what beast nature makes me?

    (I’ll not give you more chance to find me, than to torture poor “Jarl”. He can have his computer back.)

  7. Oh my goodness, I only ever lurked on your blog and we’ve never interacted in any way, but I have to tell you I am THRILLED to to see that you made a couple of posts after all this time! Since your ‘losing it’ post, I have thought of you often, and checked back from time to time just in case you ever wrote again. I’m several months late, but I thought I’d send this just in case you checked back in.

    For what it’s worth, I hope you are as proud of yourself as you deserve to be, for all your strength and wisdom. I can’t imagine the magnitude of what you’ve been through in the last couple of years, so I hope my comment doesn’t appear to make light of it. I send you my very best wishes and hopes for your near future, whether it involves blogging or not!

    • In hindsight my comment seems off-topic, so I’ll also mention that this is a great post and I think it’s spot-on.

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