I am… humbled.
I am a person, sitting in the comfort of my home, instantly faced with emotions of empathy, guilt, disgust, pride, joy, deep sadness and over all…
… a sense that I am all at once thoroughly insignificant in the world I live, but at the same time a part of the great dynamic that is Life.
What is the cause of this? A movie titled simply, HUMAN.
HUMAN is a film by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, made possible with the support of the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation and the Good Planet Foundation. The idea of the movie has been brewing for about 40 years, becoming reality beginning in 2012. There are several versions of the movie, is actually quite long; I just completed watching the ones on YouTube – 4.5 hours worth of video. I’ll embed the playlist for the “web version” below, but I want to get my thoughts down before they drown me.
Yes, I said drown me. The film is wonderful, well made, ingenious I might add. It is not the movie itself that has me so charged – it is the power of the people who spoke. Their faces, their emotions, their tears, their smiles. Their utterly – human – way of Being. The honesty that is so rare in our “modern” way of living here in America – hell, in any industrialized nation. Even those who were interviewed from these “modern” countries were most brutal in their openness. Some apologized for their show of emotion, and I had to sit and wonder, WHY apologize?! If we had more honesty in the world, wouldn’t it be a better place?
More than that, and what really got me sitting through all three volumes of the movies on YouTube, are the words. These words – spoken in their native languages and translated in text – direct responses to questions I could only guess at (for you never hear the interviewer’s questions – only the interviewees’ answers), gave me tiny glimpses into these complete strangers’ lives. All of them, each of them. I felt the love when the old man spoke of his son. I felt the joy when a young woman spoke of finding herself. I cried while faced with the pride of a boy in his father. I gasped for the mother who left her children behind to better provide for them. I wept when I heard the voices and saw the eyes of the people fleeing Africa and Syria seeking a better way of living in Europe. The one that really got me was the man from Afghanistan.
And I thought to myself, those people can never go home. Those people will never have a home again. Yes, some of them might have made it into some European country and gained access to live there, but will they ever see their loved ones again? Will they ever see the smiles on their parents’ faces? Hear the laughter of their brothers and sisters? Share secrets with close, childhood friends? How about run down the hills they grew up in? Or lay under the trees they played under? Or simply, stare up at the sky they were birthed under?
Good gods in the universe! How can we – HUMANS – allow others to go through this?! I despise watching the news for all I hear about are these atrocities from around the world which is, of course, slanted by our media-machine. To hear it, see it, and feel the emotion from these people – even though not their entire interviews – I started to really weep for the apathy, ignorance, and the full on act of disbelieving practiced by us here in the “modern” world – so full of our desires for money and… stuff.
It struck me so deeply because, here in Hawaii, I have an inkling of how some of those people feel. I really do. Born and raised on Oahu, this is my only home. I tried living on the mainland – sure – “free country” and all that, can go just about anywhere. But honestly, there is no place like Hawaii – absolutely no place. Areas get close, but they are NOT home. So I returned, only to feel more alienated that I ever have. I get it, my ancestors are not Hawaiian. I get it, my family line didn’t work the fields. I get it. Really, I do. But this is my H-O-M-E. I have no other. So tell me, again, why just because I’m haole I need to leave?!
I digress. This is not about Hawaiian Sovereignty or the “haole go home” movement that is slowly festering like gangrene in the fiftieth state. That is for another post.
This film did bring up a memory from 2001. An East Indian (or was he Middle Eastern?) male followed me all over downtown Manhattan on New Year’s Eve, proclaiming how I am, “… the most privileged person on the planet, being a white female living in America!” Yes, he was drunk. His words, his actions, and the way he got on his knees in the slushy snow pretending to, in his words, “… worship the loveliness and goddessness that is the American White Woman…” really did make me stop and wonder at how the rest of the world views us when really, we are not so special. At least I didn’t feel so special – still don’t – considering what I go through and face on a daily basis.
His words rang in my memory as I listened to these people, felt their emotion, and I found myself wanting to hug each of them – including that man who knelt in the slush – and beg for their forgiveness at being born an American White Woman.
I felt so small, so helpless, so insignificant watching this movie. I was about to just shut if off and go to bed to release the emotions (hopefully) when I saw a red river bed in snow. Interspersed through the movie is some of the most spectacular scenery ever photographed. Must be a flying drone, for it started zooming out, from above, going higher and higher into the sky rather slowly, broadening the view. The most amazing thing happened, the river bed turned into tree branches, which spread out further and further. Then you see the widened river bed is the swayed trunk of this tree, and it made me cry all over again. I took a screen shot of the final image before it faded to black. A portion of that is the image above.
How can something so beautiful exist in the world that we HUMANs keep fucking up?
The way the movie lets you discover and witness the transformation of the riverbed to trees (for there are two of them!) is just amazing. It speaks so metaphorically of how we are all so different, but part of the same thing, no matter which way we look at it – a moving river of snow melt that has dried up, but yet can still be a life supporting tree waiting for the spring.
That is how the second volume ends. I started the third. I felt a tinge of bravery as I clicked the play button – for I knew at that point the emotions would flood me and I’d have to release it somehow. Given my anxiety and depression levels lately, doing that is kinda risque. Onward.
I watched it, all. My faith swells as I realize within each person through the movie who spoke and shared their life to me (not with me, I really do mean to me) and everyone else in the “modern” world with an internet connection and gumption to cruise YouTube, there is a bravery that is, alone, Human. It is a part of us all. It is there, buried under our idealism, our religion, our careers, our obligations. A single point of bravery that screams out, “I am HUMAN!” despite the pain, suffering, sorrow, degradation, injustice… in spite of the joy, love, happiness, pride, celebration of our kind.
It is brave to be human. For we feel. Recognizing what we feel – and sharing it – takes courage.
The cats know I’m full of emotion right now. They, too, are somewhat human I suppose. I just don’t think we speak the same language. Shoo kitty! I’ll cuddle you both in a minute – let me finish my post!
I’m going to quote one guy, who is rather hard to forget, not just for his style (love pink!), but for the story he shared. It is a beautiful story, but the important part…
“Grandpa, man, you always help me see the glass as half full.”
And he leaned back, and he looked me in the eyes, and he said:
“Its a beautiful glass.”
I sat there amazed. Despite our foibles, tribulations, faults, evils… the glass is, indeed, beautiful.
I invite you to go to the official HUMAN website: www.human-themovie.org. I didn’t go to the site first, I stumbled upon the videos on Youtube. The site has wonderful information that leads up to the film itself. Then, watch HUMAN in full screen mode on your largest monitor – the film is indeed in HD. You must watch it full screen. Or better yet, use your smart TV and watch it huge, life size even! See every pore, every pimple, every wrinkle, every toothless grin, every crease of age, every sparkling eye.
Share in the experience that is inherit to us all and ponder the wisdom of the words spoken by these people from everywhere. There is no difference between them and us – and only Love will save the world.