I love British author Matt Haig for The Radleys, Dead Father’s Club, and now, The Humans, perhaps my favorite of his books—which is saying something. The Humans is about an alien who comes down to earth in the body of Professor Andrew Martin to erase the solving of a mathematical equation that could alter the course of human history.
However, the more time the alien spends among “the humans,” the more he becomes human. Instead of a book review, here are favorite quotes that trace the alien as he becomes more human but also quotes that speak to us as humans.
“The manners and social customs too are a baffling enigma at first. The conversation topics are very rarely the things they want to be talking about, and I could write ninety-seven books on body shame and clothing etiquette before you would get even close to understanding them. Oh, and let’s not forget the Things They Do to Make Themselves Happy That Actually Make Them Miserable. This is an infinite list. It includes shopping, watching TV, taking the better job, getting the bigger house, writing a semiautobiographical novel, educating their young, making their skin look mildly less old, and harboring a vague desire to believe there might be meaning to it all.” (1)
“Everything in human life was a test. That was why they all looked so stressed out.” (33)
“I had read a lot of Isobel’s work and so I knew that the whole of human history was full of people who tried against the odds. Some succeeded, most failed, but that hadn’t stopped them. Whatever else you could say about these particular primates, they could be determined. And they could hope. Oh yes, they could hope.” (164)
“But what happened in Heaven? What did you do there? After a while, didn’t you crave flaws? Love and lust and misunderstandings, and maybe even a little violence to liven things up? Didn’t light need shade? Didn’t it?” (167)
“Love is scary because it pulls you in with an intense force, a supermassive black hole, which looks like nothing from the outside but from the inside challenges every reasonable thing you know. You lose yourself, like I lost myself, in the warmest of annihilations.” (187)
“In every human life there is a moment. A crisis. One that says, what I believe is wrong. It happens to everyone, the only difference being how that knowledge changes them. In most cases, it is simply a case of burying that knowledge and pretending it isn’t there. That is how humans grow old. That is ultimately what creases their faces and curves their backs and shrinks their mouths and ambitions. The weight of that denial. The stress of it. The single biggest act of bravery or madness anyone can do is the act of change.” (249)
“Happiness is possible for me now. It exists on the other side of hurt.” (250)
From the chapter “Advice for a Human:”
- Don’t worry about your abilities. You have the ability to love. That is enough.
- Sometimes, to be yourself you will have to forget yourself and become something else. Your character is not a fixed thing. You will sometimes have to move to keep up with it.
- Tragedy is just comedy that hasn’t come to fruition. One day we will laught at this. We will laugh at everything.
- Happiness is not out here. It is in there.
- Don’t aim for perfection. Evolution, and life, only happen through mistakes.
- Failure is a trick of the light.
- A paradox: The things you don’t need to live—books, art, cinema, wine, and so on—are the thing you need to live.
- You are lucky to be alive. Inhale and take in life’s wonders. Never take so much as a single petal of a single flower for granted.
- You don’t have to be an academic. You don’t have to be anything. Don’t force it. Feel your way, and don’t stop feeling your way until something fits. Maybe nothing will. Maybe you are a road, not a destination.
“To experience beauty on Earth, you needed to experience pain and to know mortality. That is why so much that is beautiful on this planet has to do with time passing and the Earth turning. Which might also explain why to look at such natural beauty was to also feel sadness and a craving for a life unlived.” (271)
“If you came to Earth looking for logical sense, you were missing the point. You were missing a lot of things.” (278)
An endnote from Matt Haig:
“This is why I became a writer. I discovered that words and stories provided maps of sorts, ways of finding your way back to yourself. I truly believe in the power of fiction to save lives and minds.” (281)
Also, please watch this video Matt made entitled “How To Be A Writer,” because you’ll laugh until you cry. Especially if you’re a writer. Cheers.