I Believe That We Have Doomed Ourselves, But It Really Doesn’t Matter
Long ago I learned wonderful things in school. History was the story of humankind’s progress toward a perfected society. Science would solve our problems. Religion taught that we were the special creation of a loving and merciful God who would watch over each of us, reward goodness, punish evil, and forgive our shortcomings.
A lifetime of study and experience has caused me to see things quite differently.
I now I believe that history is actually the chronicle of our failure to learn and our tendency to repeat the same mistakes time and again. Science has created far worse problems than it has solved. Most religions require a breathtaking suspension of reality based thought and reason for us to believe many of their claims.
I’ve come to believe in the “malignancy” theory of humankind. We know that our cells can become malignant, multiply out of control, and eventually overwhelm and kill us. We humans have become the malignant cells in the body of the organism that we call Earth. We evolved a brain that allowed us to develop some control over our environment. As we utilized this ability to improve health and food production our population and technology exploded. We are the runaway cell, the malignancy which is creating the conditions that will eventually cause the next mass extinction on this planet.
We’ve been here for less than the blink of an eye in the vastness of geologic time. The span of the existence of our species will constitute an infinitesimal and meaningless flicker in the history of the universe. It’s sad that we haven’t done better.
I‘m a fortunate person. I’ve lived a good life, free of overwhelming want or tragedy. I’ve loved and been loved. I’ve served others in a way that has made this journey a bit more meaningful. In church each Sunday I say one prayer: “thank you”.
If you don’t understand this seeming contradiction I can’t explain it to you.
When I die I expect that my life, my consciousness, and my being will simply end. I find this frightening and I hope that I’ll be able to face it with some courage.
In that wonderful little book The Fall of Freddie the Leaf , by Leo Buscaglia, Freddie, who has come to the end of his life, asks his friend Daniel “Then what has been the reason for all this? Why were we here at all if we only have to fall and die?” Daniel answers: “It’s been about the sun and the moon. It’s been about happy times together. It’s been about [our shading] the old people [in the summer] and the play of the children. It’s been about the colors in Fall. It’s been about seasons. Isn’t that enough”?
It’s been a long time coming but now I think that I can respond: “Yes Daniel, it has been enough. Far more, in fact, than I ever had any right to expect”.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.