Being Human 101

In one of my Fountain Pen connections, we began a discussion about challenges that we face. We talked about how each of us go through experiences that, when we look back, seemed to have been a fork in our journey. And, based on our reaction to those experiences, our life may have taken a very different direction than we may have initially imagined for ourselves.

Photo by James Wheeler on

Often the decisions we make are the result of hasty reactions, shaped by our perception of the world and our perception of how we fit in it. If our perception of the world, society, and particularly ourselves is dysfunctional then our reactions – in large degree – will reflect a similar level of dysfunction. How we were raised, what societal environments we were exposed to, and even what addictions haunt us, all affect our reaction to situations we are faced with.

When Joseph was 18 years-old, he found himself making a hasty reaction in a difficult situation. He has been incarcerated ever since. He contributed the following:

I appreciate how you include me in your conversations. I think you are a fantastic human being who, like most of us, have learned a great deal about yourself through these kind of dialogues. I don’t know who you were before you wrote this letter, but I think your letter allowed me to understand your passion and how this journey has changed you.

You are so human. Just like me, we have faced many obstacles in life. I had a way of dealing with obstacles that eventually led me to prison. However, through this experience I’ve also allowed myself to be open to the idea that I can change for the better and that the way the world sees me is only a delusion whereby people get to place me in a stereotypical role. This, in large part, is due to their desire to strip my humanity. Thank you for remembering that I’m also human.

– Joseph. (Joseph has been incarcerated for over 15 years.)

Extending this type of humanity can be challenging. Did you observe the duality of Joseph’s response? First, he beautifully articulated the disparity that exists between who he knows himself to be and who society stereotypically labels him to be. This is a critical realization for each of us to make! We each are infinitely so much more than the labels society mindlessly slaps on us. Then, he recognized the need to allow himself space to believe he could change for the better. Believing change is possible is a powerful step forward. However, Joseph clearly seems to still struggle with creating that same space for society, which is a common and understandable struggle for nearly all individuals who are or who ever have been incarcerated. It is not a hope that burns very brightly – if it is burning at all.

I believe change is possible and that we all can do a better job of creating a healthy space for change.

Part of being human is allowing ourselves – and others – the space to experience setbacks, wrong turns, and detours. I know I have had my fair share of them, and I’m pretty sure you have too. Welcome to “Being Human 101.”

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