This I Believe

Kenneth - Louisville, Colorado
Entered on October 25, 2006

I watch my son and his mates march and strike their instruments. The precision and teamwork of the drum line is inspiring. These youngsters are a microcosm of human potential. I wonder about their future. I want the best for them, yet they’ll face so much adversity. My life is more than half over. I don’t want to discourage my son. Yet I don’t want to tell him fibs. Is it enough just to tell him to do his best? Does he need a specific set of instructions? Would he listen if I had them to give? Can I convey my real worries without sounding like a doomsayer?

I believe we must do our best: To treat others justly. To conserve finite resources. To take care of this planet. To understand as much as we can.

We must do these things despite near total uncertainty and without benefit of a compelling purpose, other than to survive and see what happens next. We have no destiny, only choices to make. Therefore we bear tremendous responsibilities to future generations.

The universe is immense–at least 10 billion light years in radius, at least 13.7 billion years old. Most probably there exist parallel universes. Our species evolved on this planet, now a boondock of rock and photosynthesized materials. We are sentient and intelligent, capable of investigation, exploration, self-awareness and sentiment. We care for our families. Occasionally we exhibit awareness of our codependence with other species. Perhaps this is common in the universe, perhaps it is unique.

Collectively we are self-destructively anthropocentric and seem hell-bent on destroying our planet. An external observer would notice one species—ours–consuming this orb: overpopulating, heating the atmosphere, chewing away and vaporizing the minerals, crowding out other species–destroying stasis, maximizing short-term consumption at the expense of long-term security. We have evolved to consider ourselves more unique and entitled than we ought to.

It is unlikely that the universe cares about any of this. Few or no homo sapiens will ever reach other habitable worlds. We must attempt to muddle through with the planet we’ve got, if only to prove ourselves capable of it.

There is some chance my son’s grandchildren will live on a habitable planet with just civilizations. Our species certainly possesses that capability. Yet there are as many chances our descendants will not achieve this goal or won’t exist at all, except as the lost dreams of an extinct race. For their sake we must do our best.

Meanwhile the drum line kids rehearse day after day, striving for precision, grace, unity, and beauty. Despite all reservations of this 55-year-old, they inspire belief in these human potentials.