The Art of Being Human

(First Draft Edition)

a free online textbook for Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

by Michael Wesch

 A book in 10 Lessons.

A printed version is available for $14.99 from Amazon.


Introduction: An Invitation to Anthropology.

Lesson 1: Asking Questions, Making Connections, and Trying New Things

People are different. These differences represent the vast range of human potential and possibility. Our assumptions, beliefs, values, ideas, ideals – even our abilities – are largely a product of our culture.

Lesson 2: Opening Up to New Questions

We can respond to such differences with hate or ignorance, or we can choose to open up to them and ask questions we have never considered before.

Lesson 3: Being Human

When we open up to such questions, we put ourselves in touch with our higher nature. It was asking questions, making connections, and trying new things that brought us down from the trees, and took us to the moon.

Lesson 4: Language

Our most basic assumptions are embedded in the basic elements of our everyday lives (e.g. language, routines, habits, technologies).

Lesson 5: Tools and Their Humans

We create our tools and then our tools create us.

Lesson 6: Real-izing Reality

Most of what we take as “reality” is a cultural construction (“real”-ized through our unseen, unexamined assumptions of what is right, true, or possible.)

Lesson 7: Why we Hate

We fail to examine our assumptions not just because they are hard to see, but also because they are safe and comfortable. They allow us to live with the flattering illusion that “I am the center of the universe, and what matters are my immediate needs and desires.”

Lesson 8: The Tragedy of Our Times

Our failure to move beyond such a view has led to the tragedy of our times: that we are more connected than ever, yet feel and act more disconnected.

Lesson 9: Opening up to the Wisdom of the World

Memorizing these ideas is easy. Living them takes a lifetime of practice. Fortunately the heroes of all time have walked before us. They show us the path.

Lesson 10: We Make the World

They show us that collectively, we make the world. Understanding how we make the world – how it could be made or understood differently – is the road toward realizing our full human potential. It is the road to true freedom.