EXTRACT: The Humans by Matt Haig

Matt Haig

Photo © Clive Doyle

Advice for a human

1. Shame is a shackle. Free yourself.
2. Don’t worry about your abilities. You have the ability to love. That is enough.
3. Be nice to other people. At the universal level, they are you.
4. Technology won’t save humankind. Humans will.
5. Laugh. It suits you.
6. Be curious. Question everything. A present fact is just a future fiction.
7. Irony is fine, but not as fine as feeling.
8. Peanut butter sandwiches go perfectly well with a glass of white wine. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
9. 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.
10. History is a branch of mathematics. So is literature. Economics is a branch of religion.
11. Sex can damage love but love can’t damage sex.
12. The news should start with mathematics, then poetry, and move down from there.
13. You shouldn’t have been born. Your existence is as close to impossible as can be. To dismiss the impossible is to dismiss yourself.
14. Your life will have 25,000 days in it. Make sure you remember some of them.
15. The road to snobbery is the road to misery. And vice versa.
16. Tragedy is just comedy that hasn’t come to fruition. One day we will laugh at this. We will laugh at everything.
17. Wear clothes, by all means, but remember they are clothes.
18. One life form’s gold is another life form’s tin can.
19. Read poetry. Especially poetry by Emily Dickinson. It might save you. Anne Sexton knows the mind, Walt Whitman knows grass, but Emily Dickinson knows everything.
20. If you become an architect, remember this: the square is nice. So is the rectangle. But you can overdo it.
21. Don’t bother going into space until you can leave the solar system. Then go to Zabii.
22. Don’t worry about being angry. Worry when being angry becomes impossible. Because then you have been consumed.
23. Happiness is not out here. It is in there.
24. New technology, on Earth, just means something you will laugh at in five years. Value the stuff you won’t laugh at in five years. Like love. Or a good poem. Or a song. Or the sky.
25. There is only one genre in fiction. The genre is called ‘book’.
26. Never be too far away from a radio. A radio can save your life.
27. Dogs are geniuses of loyalty. And that is a good kind of genius to have.
28. Your mother should write a novel. Encourage her.
29. If there is a sunset, stop and look at it. Knowledge is finite. Wonder is infinite.
30. Don’t aim for perfection. Evolution, and life, only happen through mistakes.
31. Failure is a trick of the light.
32. You are human. You will care about money. But realise it can’t make you happy because happiness is not for sale.
33. You are not the most intelligent creature in the universe. You are not even the most intelligent creature on your planet. The tonal language in the song of a humpback whale displays more complexity than the entire works of Shakespeare. It is not a competition. Well, it is. But don’t worry about it.

Extracted from The Humans published by Canongate, R200. The book is one of AERODROME’s WinterReads.

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