Need of Humanity; or, On Standing Where I Stand

By Will Watson / August 2017

The greatest human tragedy is that you will never stand in the same place as me at the same time as me and see and think and feel and hear and smell and taste things the same as I do.

But the greatest human need is for you and me to stand in the same place as each other at the same time as each other and think and feel and hear and smell and taste things the same as each other does. But space and time won’t let us.

And even if I move aside and let you place your feet in my shoe marks and look out upon the vista before us, you are still some seconds removed from the view I saw, and your feet may be smaller or larger than my own, and you may be taller or shorter than me, or your eyes may be worse or your hearing better, and your heart may feel things much different than mine does.

But I need you to somehow stand right here and see the smiling green of trees raking the clouds. I need you to hear the wind as I have heard it, gently whispering across the tucked hills in the drawing evening. I need you to smell the smoke of the campfires around which I have laughed into the night. I need you to taste the sweetest kiss and feel the rise of love as it speaks beneath my lungs. I need you to feel the warmth of a strong home in late winter.

But I also need you to somehow stand right here and see the screaming face of a mother, mourning her dead child. I need you to hear the sad moan as I have moaned it, forcibly stretching across the darkened corners in the suffocating night. I need you to smell the flowered pall of a too-small casket around which I have prayed into the hot day, praying rise up and breathe and walk home with me. I need you to taste the blandest bread and feel the fall of care as it retreats to a pressure above my lungs. I need you to feel the cold of an empty nursery in the budding of mid-spring.

Then I need you to find my brother in Charlottesville and do the same for him as he stands in a street and sweats as a crowd of torches lit by hate and painted in swastikas tell him that he must die because he is black. Then I need you to find my sister in the plains or hills or mountains or beaches of the coasts of America and do the same as she wonders about fire and fury in the skies above her city, and her sister in Guam, and her sister’s sister in North Korea. Then I need you to go find my friend who is starving beneath the bridge and do the same for him as he cries in longing for relief. And then I need you to do it again for your brother and sister and friend, and I need them to do it too for theirs, and even on and on again until you and I and they have done it seven billion times over and have seen and heard and felt and tasted and smelled everything as each one has seen and heard and felt and tasted and smelled it.

But the tragedy: though we need to, we can’t stand where each other has stood at the same time as we each have stood there, and even if we could you may stand taller or shorter or have worse eyes or better ears than I have. Time and space are the great limiters that we cannot defy because they are boldly singular: occurring together only once and never occurring together again. They keep you from standing here where I stand and when I stand here, looking out across an earth the seems both bright and dark and happy and painful, wondering how you may see it much differently.

But even if time and space won’t allow you to be me, it has reserved the space and time around me. So come, stand beside me. Stay with me. I need your humanity.


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  • Charlene Goosmann

    Thank you for this post…..it’s a great reminder that we all have issues in our lives. And even though I can’t feel what yours are exactly and you can’t feel mine….we can come together on an equal basis of love and compassion. The things that are happening around us seem to have desensitized us to all the human suffering. But it is there and real and it could be us.