What Does it Mean to be Human? - Leeds International Festival

What Does it Mean to be Human?

Curated by Chris Hudson of Leeds Beckett University, this series of eclectic talks explored the question ‘What does it mean to be human?’


Using the context of our hectic, commercial world, full of economic and technological stimuli, each renowned speaker from a host of specialisms looked at this narrative from an entirely different perspective.

The day commenced with an intimate crowd for Gelong Thubten, the famous Buddhist monk, hanging on his every word. Gelong discussed meditation techniques and practising ‘micro moments’ of mindfulness to maintain humanity and compassion in an increasingly busy world.

Next, Professor Alice Roberts (most recently seen presenting Channel 4’s ‘Britain’s Most Historic Towns’) spoke about ‘The Incredible Human Journey.’Ten years on from making her landmark BBC2 series, Professor Roberts explored the latest insights into the colonisation of the globe by our ancient forebears.

A packed crowd listened to Simon Anholt’s ‘How Good Should a Country Be?’ which focused on a different question: instead of asking how well a country is doing, try asking how much it is doing. In his vision, the next goal for humanity should be to change the culture of governance from one that is fundamentally competitive to one that is collaborative.

The day culminated with ‘Notes on A Nervous Planet’ by novelistMatt Haig. After experiencing years of anxiety and panic attacks, Matt talked about looking for the link between what he felt and the world around him, and how to feel happy, human, and whole in the twenty-first century.

The day flowed beautifully between insightful discussions about the modern world to

delving into the theory of whether we have lost sight of the essence of what we want from our life and if we have forgotten how to be human.

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