What Does It Mean To Be Human?



I asked my employer yesterday about the way that he dealt with tragedy in life, especially since there is so much of it always erupting everywhere. He answered that he tries to find something of joy to celebrate in every day and tries to bring something good to others – other people, other animals and other life as a whole.

His response reminded me of my favorite part of this movie, which I saw shortly after its release many years ago. I recommend it to anyone, who wants to understand the mind of M. Gandhi and there are a number of cost free versions of it online. Here is one:



Gandhi (1982) Gandhi’s character is fully explained as a man of nonviolence. Through his patience, he is …

Gandhi (film) – Wikipedia


Gandhi is a 1982 British-Indian epic biographical drama film which dramatises the life of …. play the role of Gandhi. The choice was Ben Kingsley, who is partly of Indian heritage (his father was Gujarati and his birth name is Krishna Bhanji).


My preferred part of the movie concerned the anguish that a Hindu husband and his Hindu wife felt after they killed a Muslim child after a Muslim had killed their only child, a young son. Filled with almost unbearable grief over their own loss and their subsequent actions, they were beside themselves in anguish and guilt to the point that their lives were falling apart.

So they went to Gandhi and asked about whatever they could do to make everything as all right as possible under such dire circumstances that created such unendurable losses as they had both endured AND, then, perpetuated. They just couldn’t bear their painful situation any longer.

He replied that they needed to adopt a Muslim boy, who had been orphaned in the fighting. Then they were to raise him as if he were their own child … and they were to raise him as a Muslim. (How’s that as a way to promote communal harmony?)

Another narrative that I like about Gandhi came from my parents:

My parents knew the young American featured in the account during the 1940’s. As an aside, he was nineteen years old at the time of his return to the USA from India. …

After having lived at Gandhi’s ashram and shortly before his departure back to the US, a young man requested an exit interview with Gandhi (who brought his Hindi interpreter along). Upon meeting for this final time, the eager young man asked, “How can I ensure that your message of peace and universal brotherhood can be made a successful realization in America? What can I do to make certain that this WILL happen?”

In response, old Gandhi shakily rose to leave and answered the query in Hindi (despite that he could speak in perfect King’s Standard English as he had been trained as a lawyer in Great Britain). Meanwhile, the interpreter translated into English, “Interview is ended.”

The young man pleaded, “But why? What is wrong? I do not understand.”

Gandhi, turning back from leaving the room, replied, “It is because we are not speaking the same language. You see, you speak of success and think of failure. Your vision and your words are wrong… Instead, you must think of yourself and all of us as birth attendants upon the world. We will and must try to do our utmost to bring about a good delivery as it is our responsibility.

However, we, absolutely, cannot think in terms of success and failure. We simply must do all that we can in the best way that we know to help the world irrespective of any presumed outcome. Our effort, in and by itself, must be our whole focus.”

In a similar vein, we know where personally isolating ourselves from personal and global difficulties, while doing nothing to try to address them, leads. We, also, know where indulging in various forms of self-advancement, at the exclusion of others, does.

What we do not know, though, is the way that intentional changes in some life choices can make a difference. Nonetheless, we have to try out these alternatives. After all, it is the only viable way to proceed toward our world’s future!



We need to all rise up with courage of conviction across the world. If we do so, there is no stopping our momentum, as the Quaker pacifist Pete Seeger sang again and again to provide inspiration and an ever growing challenge to the status quo:


Pete Seeger sings We Shall Overcome. … no more Eric Garners, Mike Browns, Walter Scotts, Tamir Rices …

For years, I used to sing this above song as a child as it helped define my identity and ethics in my eyes. Indeed, my friends and I added verses to it, such as “we will end all wars,” “we will ban the bomb,” we’ll walk hand in hand,” and “we will end all poverty,” “we will stop all racism,” etc.

Using this song became a very powerful tool to fight bigotry, battles carried out by various religious or ethnic groups, government oppression, resource wars and so on when my friends and I would stand in vigil and mourn the dead, who were murdered in conflicts like the racial violence in the 1960’s and the Viet Nam War. It was our way of protest.

We’d link arms or hold hands and sway together in rhythm to the music at such sad gatherings. We simultaneously sang with great fervor and intention to bring about a new way forward for life against the unacceptable travesty against us all, and without our resorting to retaliatory violence.

These sorts of events brought very powerful moments of shoveling forward a song’s capability to bring about change. They pushed us ever more forward to define ourselves through resistance against wrongs and through love. They gave us heart and courage to ever carry onward even when events looked grim. Look at M. L. King, Jr., et al doing the same action with this song.

Why, the song grew so monumental as a seamless protest across the entire nation that we were collectively unstoppable as our numbers grew in singing this same song again and again. We could not be stopped!


So I recommend that this song be used across any land that is having conflicts amongst groups or between groups and their governments. This is because it is a very powerful way to bring and teach unity, as well as a sense of courage, purpose and conviction to the singers and song listeners alike. In short, it brings people together against the oppressors whomever they may be. It’s a potent stand-up against them without harming them in return for the slaughter or other grave wrongs that they already inflicted and may still continue to afflict. … Yes, we resist and won’t be stopped by your viciousness!


Heck, people can even make up their own new verses for the simple tune that the song has, such as “we will end beef ban” or “we’ll protect ALL people,” etc. Indeed, one is only limited by imagination for making up the new needed verse that fits a particular situation, such as the murder of people from other religious groups. So please take the lead from Pete Seeger and others:


Yes, please take this simple, caring song and use it anew in the same way that we previously did to build solidarity, an impressive amount of new strength in numbers as others joined our ranks upon their exposure to it and our monumental unity of purpose. Feel free to honor its rich history of prior helpfulness if you wish to do so as it was very affective as a means to gather support in the USA in the 1960’s, and it can be as powerful now as it ever was!

… and look at how much it was of value in terms of teaching unity in cause and reinforcing our shared values. Why, it became our slogan, a new national anthem of sorts. … No stopping us now with such a monumental song bringing us all together! The power of song lights a spark, and that can create a shared and huge spreading fire as more and ever more people are drawn out of apathy into its all-encompassing bright light! … Yes, yes, we shall come together in increasing droves to overcome!


In the end, it is up to each and every one of us to decide the type of world that we want to help create. What version of the future do we want? If we truly want it, what can we do to try to help it come into place? What will happen if we don’t try to help that birthing process of which Gandhi spoke to my parents’ friend to bring about a new and better world?

So what does it mean to be human? It means, in my thinking, someone putting in his best effort to revere and respect life by supporting it as my employer tries to do. Forget indifference or apathy. Forget leaving it to the next guy or gal to solve the difficult issues as a problem.

We can each add our part by singing a protest song or doing something else to improve the world around us. If we join together in this cause and link up as I learned to do in this song and related efforts, we will be unstoppable!


Sally Dugman is a writer in MA, USA.


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