A Necessary Shift in Worldview

October 23, 2008

Look around you. Breathe. Drink deep of the sun, and bask in the glow of faint starlight,  Watch the elaborate interactions of the billions of living organisms in a small garden.  Feel life itself rain down upon you, and creep up through your feet.  This gift that is life is given to us freely, and without obligation.  We owe our existence to none but our ancestors, our planet, and to life itself.  We have no obligation to any being, god, or higher power, save those we choose to align ourselves with. 

We owe our lives to this planet upon which we live, with it’s unique characteristics (so far) among all of the known planets.  There may be other planets capable of supporting Earth’s lifeforms, but we have not yet found them, and so for the present time, this planet is the only place in the universe where we can survive.  Yet here on Earth we do far better than survive; we thrive, and the bounty of different species is enormous.  Truly, this planet should be sacred to us all, as it sustains us, nourishes our crops, and enables all of human existence. Yet we do not pay Mother Earth the respect that she is due.  We pollute her skies, her water, her soil.  We destroy the very thing upon which we depend most for our survival, and upon which all known life in this vast universe clings.  

Oh, the hubris of homo-sapien!  Unable to connect the health of the planet to the health of all her inhabitants, we are on course to destroy our world and all upon it.  We poison our own mother in our lust for vaporous power over each other, and pit our own species against itself and against all life.  If humanity is to ever rise above its brutish and self-destructive history, we must change our very outlook on life. We must accept that we are no pinnacle of life, that we are no grand creation of god or gods, and realize instead that we are just one tiny part of the vast web of life, all mutually dependent upon each other for survival.  Above all else, we must accept responsibility for our own survival, and this requires us to work in harmony with our world.

Deprive the world of one small part of it’s web of species, and all parts suffer.  The natural balance is reeling from the changes wrought by humans on this world, and the ecosystems cannot adapt fast enough to keep pace with us.  We dive faster and further into an unsustainable existence, squandering resources that future generations, and future species, will sorely miss.  We must change how we live.  There are simply too many humans to live life the way we do presently in the industrialized world.  The natural resources do not exist; it is flatly impossible for future generations to live as we do.  However, if we begin now to change our way of life toward one that is sustainable, with less waste, more interdependence, and an emphasis on mutual cooperation, we go a long way toward lessening the pains that will be suffered by our descendents.

Moreover, in learning to coexist, we will find solutions to other societal ills.  One does not go to war with one’s friends and neighbors, but with an unknown “other.”  As we learn to depend on one another, we will grow more tolerant of the flaws of those with whom we share this Earth.  We will find that the same desires, needs, values, and worries are present in all humans, and these similarities outweigh all differences. 

We must hurry, however.  The longer we wait, the more time we spend fighting one another instead of fighting together against our common enemies – disease, hunger, poverty, global climate change, and the like – the harder the eventual fight becomes.  

Our generation is in a unique place, because we grow up in a world that is interconnected to a degree unimaginable to our forebearers.  Ignorance of other societies, fear of the other, intolerance of different beliefs and cultures becomes more difficult as knowing one another becomes easier.  We stand at a crossroads – the main path is wide and well-trodden, as many have passed this way before.  But this path leads only to hate, fear, delusion, and death.  We must take the fork, travel the overgrown and misused path.  Make no mistake, it will be a more difficult path for all of us.  We will have to make sacrifices now for future gains that we may never see.  

This path requires us to be selfless, loving, and trusting – all difficult when we do not know the person sitting at their keyboard a world away.  This person is your brother, your sister, your friend, your lover.  This person you may never meet, and yet we must find it within ourselves to love her nonetheless.  For until we embrace each other as members of the same species, children of the same Earth, pieces of the great web, then we can never hope to move off the beaten path, and create a new future for this world.

I am not positioned to ask anything of you, but if anyone reads this and agrees, do one thing for your world today.  Go out into the world and get to know someone different from yourself.  Don’t content yourself with simply meeting them, but truly get to know another person.  Find out their dreams, ask about their families, or their free-time activities.  It is a tall order, but try to understand the mind of another, and find the similiarities between your life and theirs.  Strive always to find commonality between yourself and the world around you – this is the necessary shift we must make, if we are to survive.

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