Becoming Human

House of Anansi Press, 2008

This book is about the liberation of the human heart. In this provocative work, Jean Vanier shares his profoundly human vision for transformation – for creating a common good that radically changes our communities, our relationships, and ourselves. “Becoming Human” invites us into freedom from the tentacles of chaos and loneliness, and from those fears that provoke us to exclude and reject others. It is a freedom that opens us up and leads us to the discovery of our common humanity amid difference.
Vanier writes that this book is not essentially about the formation and organization of society. Neither is it political in scope. But he does articulate the different between open societies and closed societies: if we commit ourselves to the making of a society in which we are concerned only with our own rights, then that society must become more and more closed in on itself. We do not feel any responsibility toward others, there is no reason for us to work harmoniously toward the common good. On the other hand, if we allow ourselves to open up to others, and become concerned with their conditions, then the society in which we live changes and becomes more open.
In this pivotal work, Vanier clearly shows how we can live in peace despite our many differences. This book has inspired many people to rethink their perceptions and become more involved in their communities, and in their attitudes toward people who have disabilities. It has been central to discussions, retreats, workshops, research and teaching. Vanier shows how, through genuine encounters, we can resolve conflict and see difference as fruitful. Through his work at L’Arche, Vanier is a powerful advocate for the weaker, more vulnerable members of society. They have been his teachers, he writes, and it is his hope that he can reveal a bit about what he has learned, and is still learning about helping others to discover our common humanity.