Great or Small? What Baffles Me the Most is the Incredible Ambivalence of Our Species
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Living in the 21st Century has become a daily challenge just to keep up with the leaps — as opposed to the tortoise pace of the past — in human knowledge. With no inclination to read newspapers properly and exhaustively, I have come to depend on specific venues for discovering where we (mankind, that is) stand in a universe that has gone from huge but finite to virtually infinite in my lifetime. Thank you, National Public Media.
What baffles me the most is the incredible ambivalence of our species. The more we figure out, the further our imaginations leads us to what turns out to be scientifically factual, the more astonishing our ability to conceive of the inconceivable, the smaller we become in the total order.
Yet, how small are we actually in any order if we have developed the capacity to realize so much beyond comprehension for all of human history?
Should we not be reviewing ancient philosophical and religious traditions on the premises where they agree? While eastern prescriptions aim to remove mankind from life as we live it here, the western ones by and large seem to advocate a faith that whatever follows this life may mirror it. The older I get, the more it seems to me that the rift grows ever larger as each approach becomes more and more insistent.
In modern times, European traditions were put to the test by Gandhi and his non-violent opposition, reinforced by Martin Luther King, Jr. and others. Their forceless voices won out after long struggle. It seems important to remember that they would not have succeeded had it not been for the majority of believers, professed or not, in the value of human life, the necessity of humility, the righteousness of mercy and redemption.
The ancient Greeks saw the dangers in hubris. Contemporary reliance on pure science and technology poses a threat to the very qualities that may be the only ones that can save our small part of the universe in a livable condition for our descendants.
A friend and I were considering (what strikes me as a fully foolish) argument between the "Creationists" and the "Evolutionists." She happens to be a person educated in science and reared in Calvinist tradition. She quickly ran through the latest theories on the origin of life, and I referred to the incredible expanding of limits to known galaxies. We agreed that the argument for Intelligent Design seems perfectly acceptable in either camp.
Of course, one wonders what it is about human living that seems to make it so difficult to settle anything in a public arena without some form — metaphorically or literally — of bloodshed and even the threat of extinction.
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