I believe that the very nature of people will lead us to a better world.
I grew up in the sixties when Man traveled to the moon, harnessed great energy and was said to have conquered nature. Our limits were our imagination. It seemed Man had tipped the balance scales forever in his favor and it was on color TV for all to see.
I grew up in the sixties when colored folk needed to demand equality, when there was war and atrocity in Vietnam, and an arms race bent on mutual destruction. And I grew up questioning it all.
In the seventies and eighties I began to see the many finer cracks in societies and governments, and their seeming ineffectiveness against intractable problems. I worked in corporations that bumbled with organizational dysfunction and waste. Individuals believing they know more than they do, and acting as if they were the only right. Problems appeared and mistakes naturally followed.
But I also saw, with time, the cold war dissolve. And began to see the mystery that somehow from the bureaucracy of clumsy corporations and governments, so much good can emerge.
My logical mind was stumped. Somehow confusion, mishap, and good co-existed. Eventually, it boiled down to this: Do I have faith in the greatness of human future, or faith that we are to forever cause our own problems, that human nature will, in the end subvert our potential?
On the surface, human greatness can be measured by our concrete achievements, however this calculus requires a higher goal or it is pointless. What is good about these achievements? Good itself is unmeasurable, a textured and ever complicated thing.
And I know that people are good. History has recorded the tortuous progress of people everywhere over time. History meanders as we increasingly value lives and experiences. Good does emerge from our collective endeavors. The proof is in the sum total, what we see all around: in technology, art, and our basic ability to discern what makes us good, and what makes life great. Thought, desire and energy of each individual leads us to organize and socialize, to be part of the collective effort to evolve our understanding and practice of good.
As we better understand good, our actions create real progress towards good. Our nature makes us care about the direction the world changes, and care to correct the apparent mistakes. To want to make it better. I could forever worry about the future. But instead I remain thoroughly optimistic. That my own contributions do matter, that mistakes and polarization are often needed before reflecting, righting the wrong, and understanding the gray.
My comfort is my faith in our nature; that we will continue to better ourselves. That the very nature of people will not lead to utopia, but to believe that I am, we are part of a world that is continually, patiently becoming a better place… a world where we will be able to know what that better place is!
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.