How to know humanity?

While out walking I meet a Martian.

“Excuse me,” he says,

A very polite Martian,

“But I need to know humanity.

Can you advise me?

I have only five days,

But I’m fast learner.”

This is a tough question,

Especially encountered on an evening stroll.

What about reading all of Wikipedia?

Most is nothing to do with humanity.

Walk the streets of New York

For 24 hours, questioning everybody?

Not a bad start.

Perhaps a war?

That brings out the best and worst,

Displays the extremes.

I’ll send him to Syria.

Some films surely,

But they are slow.

I’ll allow one Herzog

And one Taratino.


I think the Martian will know all that,

And is that humanity?

I think not.

Better religion,

Twelve hours in the Vatican

And twelve in a Peruvian mission.

Now music.

A Bach suite,

Some Bruce Springstein,

And something Chinese.

This is far too Western:

To Kyoto for 12 hours.

Travel, I’m discounting

But maybe a crowded London tube

Is an essential introduction

To humanity.

Poetry will be Dante, Lao Tzu, and Shakespeare.

Novels will be Eliot, Proust,

Dostoevsky and Garcia Marquez.

But finally it must be a hospital

To see humans born, die, suffer,

And be cut to the bone.

That, my Martian,

Is your prescription for

Understanding humanity.

But to really know

You must become human

To feel the great confusion of humanity.


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