Since the dawn of human civilization, the state of humanity has been a reflection of the contradictory forces that are an integral part of the nature of individual existence. As sentient beings, we have the capacity for enlightened thinking, creative imagination, surprising inventiveness and a remarkable capacity to understand the forces in the universe that shape our existence and propel us forward. Using these innate capabilities as tools for human development, much progress has been made to improve the human condition.
However, bundled along with these qualities of our collective consciousness, are those aspects of our nature that have a decidedly opposite effect. These include our capacity for violence; our tendency to fear that which we do not fully understand; our tribal inclination to be in community with those who are like ourselves and to treat with suspicion those who are different and, most importantly, to allow the “darker” emotions to shape our behavior.
The end result of these contradictory forces has produced an historic record of human existence on this remarkable planet filled with periods filled with wondrous achievements and astounding progress and those overshadowed by utter darkness and despair. It seems that at times, the human capacity for unimaginable hatred, brutality, violence and cruelty seems to know no bounds. The historic record, in this regard, speaks for itself.
In spite of the collective impact of these often-conflicting influences, human civilization has managed to endure and to move forward. In the twenty-first century, as humans, we are approaching two very divergent paths towards the future. What currently seems to be the most likely of these possibilities is being shaped by a number of forces. Due to our remarkable strides in understanding of our own biology and the nature of the world around us, humans have come to be the dominant species on planet earth and our numbers are constantly increasing. Together with this reality, modern humans have come to expect a level of comfort, convenience and personal individual fulfillment that may, if not reasonably constrained, impact the earthly environment that sustains us to the extent that the future of the species may be endangered. Together with this trend, there is another force at work. Many nations that are currently held together by a sense of belonging to a larger community of individuals of similar beliefs, values, ethnicity and expectations are being challenged by an influx of those considered foreign and, therefore, treated with suspicion and fear. The prospect of the possible loss of national identity has unleashed a deleterious movement towards fascism. Recent human history has demonstrated just how dangerous this proclivity can be.
In my judgment, it is time for each of us as members of our species to begin to avert this collective movement towards a future that can imperil all human prospects by embracing an entirely different approach to living. It may have to begin by imagining a new way. The beginning of this process resides in an introspective assessment of self. First, we must determine what actually motivates our behavior; what moves us forward in life and what is the source of our values. This takes effort and concentration but is an essential ingredient for change. It requires a commitment to be courageous, honest and true to ourselves.
Once this initial work is accomplished, the next step would be to determine that which we truly value. I believe that at the core of this evaluation would be a world filled with peace; a future for the coming generations in a sustainable environment with a diversity of living beings on this beautiful and remarkable planet and a world where each person regardless of their ethnicity, race, gender, place of origin and system of beliefs is valued and appreciated as our equals.
If this possible future is what we truly desire, the first steps towards its actualization is shattering the invisible yet potent barriers that prevent us from encompassing those who are apparently different from ourselves. The most effective means to accomplish this is through the beauty of human communication – to disrupt the isolation that so profoundly reinforces suspicion and fear. We are, after all, members of the same species with the same characteristics, the same architecture of the brain, the same biology, the same drives, emotions, yearnings and desires. It is through real human communication that we would naturally come to appreciate the value of our differences.
Once, humans truly embrace one another as equals, then, and only then, can we collectively move forward to shape the future to meet our fondest desires and ensure a sustainable environment for the species.
Alternatively, succumbing to our tendency to tribal affiliation will not save us. Quite the opposite, it would enhance our isolation, exacerbate our fears and lead us on a path to further disruption and ultimately to social disintegration as history has repeatedly shown. We do have the capacity to finally and ultimately shatter the cycle of violence and retribution that has been such a recurrent theme throughout the human journey.