Saturday, April 21, 2012

Into the Next

I rather like humanity, warts and all. I think it has tremendous potential which we are only just now beginning to tap. Some very, very bad people with some hideous ideas infected our thinking and cast us into stagnation, horror, and superstition for a very long time. It was a self-indulgent, self-congratulatory kind of coma, and defined everything we do and think in terms of it, so it's going to take some effort to break the spell of it.

If one considers the history of humanity as a single lifespan, I see us as being in our adolescent stage, just when we are starting to realize that it's time to move out and live our own lives. It is a difficult time, filled with strife and indecision, and the unpleasant reality that we can no longer rely on mommy or daddy to set our life rules for us and that we must accept responsibility for our own lifestyle, diet, health and general balance of living. We must work and no one is going to do it for us - we have to do it ourselves. Leaving behind children's fables is not easy, but it must be done. It's just part of the growing-up process.

There comes a point in everyone's life when (metaphorically) they hold the knife in their hands and realize, fully realize, that they can put an end to their existence. At that terrible moment of ultimate self-efficacy, a decision must be made, for the first time. At that point, for the first time, we must create our own reasons not to use the knife. It is a pivotal moment and it is difficult. We have thought like children for so long and adulthood is uncharted territory.

My generation was the first (arguably the second) to hold the knife in its hands. It may seem trite to say it now, but I grew up under the threat of "the bomb" and the total annihilation of all of humanity. It's been a turbulent time and there are those who rail against leaving the comfort of daddy's basement, but we are dragging ourselves, kicking and screaming, into adulthood. It's not over yet, to be sure, but there are promising signs.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was remarkable precisely in that it did collapse rather than go out in a "blaze of glory," a not unfathomable possibility. Two nuclear-capable nations who despise each other with near absolute passion (India and Pakistan) mutually backed off from the brink. Despite the fact that we have been taught for thousands of years that we are evil and like being evil, we have formed (to varying degrees) some generally compassionate social orders. We see mass cooperation on a grand scale, but are often blinded by the exceptions, reveling in them, despairing in the isolated incidences, and wielding them to confirm our hatred of ourselves. No surprise there - we've been taught to do that. We have developed tools (both physical and idea-tools) that allow us to lengthen life-spans and improve quality of life dramatically. We have leisure time the likes of which was unknown before us, which we can use pretty much however we want. We have time to think about being better than we have been.

I keep a copy of the Cassini photograph of Earth seen through Saturn's rings as a background because, to me, it is a symbol of what we can accomplish - the sheer, astonishing power of human potential and efficacy, when we choose to not be hobbled by small, twisted minds, jealously guarding their empty little metaphysical empires. Such modern miracles are commonplace now and we've become complacent - even blase. There are new ones of ever greater magnitude every other day it, seems. We don't need to wait lifespans for them anymore. We need only wait a few hours, or so it seems. We are never satisfied and are harder to impress all the time.

This has been an exciting, vibrant time and of all of human history, this is the time I would choose to live in. There are bumps in the road, to be sure, and we don't know where it leads, but we are hesitantly taking steps to the future. I say "hesitant" in terms of individual lifespans, but in the larger scale, the change over the past few hundred years has been almost fantastic and is accelerating at an astonishing rate.

Isn't it interesting that, to the best of our knowledge, the one species that is able to contemplate it's own way of being, uses that contemplation with such ferocious deliberation to vilify itself, systematically and methodically. In a very important sense, we are what we think we are because our concept of self is subject to negotiation. We decide what kind of people we are. We've made some very bad decisions in the past, but we've made some good ones too and the good ones are slowly, inexorably starting to assume, despite vigorous protestations, a leading role in our thinking.

I don't hate humanity, and I'm not about to let agenda-ridden dogmas convince me that I should. It's not about faith - faith is a throwback to a darker, bleaker, emotionally and intellectually hobbled time. It's about throwing stagnation-faith away, recognizing potentials, and getting on with the business of living.

It's not about knowing; it's about learning.
It's not about mastering; it's about surpassing.
It's not about being right; it's about being adaptable.
It's not about prophesy; it's about efficacy.
It's not about fathers; it's about children.
Its not about the good old days; it's about a better tomorrow.
It's not about surrender; it's about striving.
Its not about stagnation; it's about potential.
It's not about despair; it's about vision.
It's not about the past; it's about the future.

The best teachers want their students to leave them in the dust...