Is it human to be kind and generous and sympathetic to those who are less fortunate? Or to be selfish and rude and self-centered? What is human? Can we judge what human is? Is it the essence of a person: a soul, a mind, habits, goals, wants, wishes, hates, and memories?
We say someone isn’t human if he or she has maimed and tortured and butchered people for the sake of it, someone who has engaged in cruelty because he or she enjoys it. It is because the behavior is so different from us, from what we as a society have dictated as lying within the normal means of the definition of "human." We cannot understand what brought them to such acts, and certainly cannot imagine ourselves engaging in such abominable deeds. Therefore they are not like us, not human.
But does succumbing to carnal pleasures, no matter how grotesque or unseemly, make us less human? Or more?
Is it not part of being human holding on to basic instincts? In not exercising restraint when regarding those primal urges? Would it not be less human then, to try and suppress our nature? Yet there are numerous instances of us doing exactly that. Food. People starve themselves in an attempt to appear more physically attractive. Sleep. People forgo sleep to work or study, because being productive in our society, being successful, is a better tradeoff than letting our body have the rest it needs. Sex. An act overburdened by social and religious stigma, it is an act from which we suffer undue shame when indulging in it too often or with the wrong sorts of people. Who is to say that doing so makes us any less human?
Human is not a synonym for good.
Human is not a synonym for someone who fits into society.
What is human, then?
Is it what makes us able to be loved? Despised? Is it having thoughts and dreams? Or is it having to periodically sleep or go to the bathroom? Is it having a body with two arms and two legs and a torso and a face that isn’t too hideous? Is it just the mind that matters? A mind that, in the future, might be able to be uploaded onto a computer for safekeeping? Is a mind in a storage container human? Is a body of a brain-dead person in a coma human?
"Human" might be more than what we make of it, or less. It might be nothing at all; just an idea, a fanciful concept that we have given a name to in an attempt to set us apart from — what, animals? Plants? The rest of the universe? Should the idea of "human" even exist? Does it have any meaning? Should it?
Perhaps it's merely what we make of it.
Perhaps it really means nothing at all.