Notebook

Humanitas

In classical Latin, ‘humanitas’ stands for ‘kindness’ or ‘compassion’, qualities thought to be specific to humankind. When one looks at how humans coexist in the world, though, it is easy to yield to cynicism. To be reminded of what a humane life looks like, I regularly listen again to David Nott’s conversation with Kirsty Young recorded in 2016. Dr Nott’s commitment as a surgeon in war-torn areas is an inspiration. Moving, too, is his account of an encounter with Queen Elizabeth II. Her response to the state of crisis he was in at the time shows what majesty means.