Human. I spend a lot of time thinking about this word and what it means.

I have had many discussions about whether, when thinking about someone, this descriptor should come first, last or somewhere in the middle.

For me, I think of everyone as human first. It is the fastest way of connecting, of individualizing  every one I have found. It is the most singular commonality we all share and start with. The moment we are born, we start to gather labels and layers. These are the things that we and others use to separate us, to categorize us and sub-divide us.

When I hear about someone that has done a terrible thing, the first thing I feel now is compassion. Trying to understand what could have possibly happened to that poor human to get them to the point in their existence that that action was a viable option. If I start with one of the labels that they have taken upon themselves or the that world has yoked them with, the first thing I would feel is judgment or maybe that karma has caught up with them. I don’t want to feel this way. It seems dehumanizing to me.

The roots of my compassion or radical empathy is covered very well by Amanda Palmer in this article she wrote for the New Statesmen.  A couple of years ago, there was a story in the news about a young man that was so lost he attacked and killed people in a church. Of course I felt compassion for his victims and their families. That was easy.  I spent two long months trying to find compassion for him. To make him human, to strip away all of the labels the world put onto him. I felt so much guilt, felt dirty and lost as I got to his core. I feel if we don’t feel compassion for the most lost, for the worst of us, the rest is just lip service to make ourselves feel better. To feed our egos.

Sam Richards did an amazing TED talk about this. It really made me think.

In order to see each other as human first, we need to practice radical empathy and compassion. To practice theory of mind.

Another interesting example of my human first approach is what has happened in the world of orchestras with the start of blind auditioning, which ultimately led to increased diversity.

I am in no way saying that the things that build us into the the individual people we are are not important. These differences are what make the world so interesting, but at our core, we are human first.

As always, ask questions. I am new at this living thing.

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