Construct Your Humanism 2017 Report


Couldn’t attend the 2017 Construct Your Humanism session—and would like to know what happened?

The “Construct Your Humanism, 2017” education session took place this June 12-July 2 in Urbana Illinois, the home of Patch Adams MD, Susan Parenti, and School for Designing a Society. 25 people from 5 different countries participated, living together in an 8 bedroom house in Champaign Urbana. The session was an action call for each participant to construct her/our humanism. We think of a humanist as a person who puts the well-being of living systems – human and non-human – above all else, and acts accordingly. Humanism is a counter to de-humanization.

  • How can we counteract social structures—legal, non-legal, formal, informal – that treat people as something other than people?
  • What to do when our efforts to act humanely in our profession or schooling are not encouraged by our bosses or teachers but are discouraged, sometimes even punished?
  • What happens when we reach out to a student or patient and told that such ‘reaching out’ is unprofessional, shows a lack of professional distance, is wasting time, breaking necessary boundaries, shows that you’re not “____” material (doctor, nurse, teacher, etc)?


These are only some of the questions we examined in our time together!

We also invited participants to develop several differing personalities. Each of these exists in one of three contexts: community living, learning society, and performance/composition/clowning ensemble. So daily each person would switch between three ‘hats’—as a bathroom cleaning communard, as a learner and teacher, and as a crazy artist/performer/maker/ clown. Some may call this way of ordering personalities, a positive multiple personality order. We find that to act humanely in today’s society requires a variety of self-presentations—to have alternative ways to present oneself in response to dehumanizing structures. The solo self-image doesn’t work—it’s not sufficient to respond to the calls on our humanism.

This year we placed an unusual emphasis on play. Since the opposite of de-humanization is play, we considered play the vision and practice of belonging. We introduced concepts by means of playing them. As part of this emphasis on play, Construct Your Humanism 2017 session hosted a children’s summer arts camp. We met approximately 15 children three times a week in a session called I to Eye.

Here are some more events we participated in those 3-weeks:

  • We visited the Prompting Theater in Champaign Illinois—and were INSPIRED.
    • The Prompting Theater is a group of adults who could be described as having developmental disabilities—but they self-describe themselves as a performance ensemble of people with different abilities. Wow!
  • We participated in a session of the HUMAN LIBRARY of Champaign Illinois. Again,wow!
    • What is the HUMAN LIBRARY? It’s an event that aims to create dialogue and understanding between people. Individuals volunteer as human ‘books’ and participants in the event can ‘read’ the book- meaning they have a one on one conversation with the volunteer and share in a dialogue about that individual’s experience.
  • We participated in Patch Adams’ ‘letter writing project’.
    • Patch has collected letters over the years that he has responded to, and then he asked each of us to choose a few letters and respond to them ourselves, and share that.
  • We listened to community activist and organizer Paul Glover, who has developed a range of institutions and acts of resistance to the current system.


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Patch Adams MD & Gesundheit Institute, P.O. Box 307, Urbana, IL 61803

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