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Secular Solstice Dawn Speech: Only Human
“You’re only human.”
That’s what someone says when they want you to set your sights a little lower, to make your goals a little less lofty. “Only human”. It’s supposed to be a reminder that, when you get down to it, we are basically chimps who traded a little less hair for a little more brain. “Only human” means: you’re limited. You’re fragile. You are flawed. And all that is true - but that doesn’t preclude greatness.
You, and I, are human.
When evolution created us as weird chimps to hunt and gather on the African Savannah, we said “how about we thrive on every corner of every continent instead?” And when evolution looked at us skeptically and said “um...even the really cold parts? Like, there’s this whole Scandinavian region you are really not cut out for” we said “ESPECIALLY the really cold parts, and when we get there we’re going to invent IKEA because frankly these rocks are uncomfortable”, at which point evolution presumably threw up its hands and left the weird insane chimps to it.
We are the humans! We are the ones who write, who speak, who invent! We are the strange chimps who always found a way to thrive, on every corner of this ridiculous planet, no matter what it threw at us!
We are the humans! We are the ones who saw a poisonous tree, thought “that looks delicious”, turned it into almonds, and now we pour it in our coffee for breakfast! We are the humans, and we have it in ourselves to care, and love, and protect all of our people! We are perhaps uniquely endowed with the ability to go beyond what drives evolution instilled in us, to love and care and protect for its own sake.
We are the humans! We figured out what the stars are made of! We’ve peered into distant galaxies! We’ve mapped the echoes of the very beginning of the universe! We figured out what EVERYTHING is made out of, and now we take the fundamental building blocks of everything and SPLIT THEM APART to make energy. Like that! (said as a light turns on) We are the humans, and after spreading to every corner of this planet, we looked up and said “yeah, that looks good.” We are the humans, and if you want to do a full headcount you’re going to need to go into orbit. We are the humans, built to run on the Savannah, but now you can find our footprints on the moon.
We are the humans. We're the reason you don't see Smallpox around anymore. It got a bad case of us. Oh, and by the way, we’re not done. You know polio? It killed or paralyzed five hundred thousand of us in 1950. But humans noticed, and humans said “FUCK NO”, and inch by inch we've fought back, from half a million each year to just THIRTY-FOUR cases of polio in the wild in 2016. This year? Only SIXTEEN. Polio is at the gates of oblivion, and we have a message: Give smallpox our regards.
Next time someone says that you’re only human, forget the "only"! You are one of THE humans! The truth-seekers, the peacemakers, the atom-splitters, the moon-walkers, the artists, the dreamers, the lovers and protectors - The rebels who defy the world they were made for, who never stop dreaming and working for a better tomorrow.
We are not done. We countless problems left to solve,many of them self-made. But we are the humans, and we don’t give up, and we have come this far, and as long as even one of us is still breathing, we fight - because we are ONLY HUMAN.