Tuesday, December 6, 2011


If hundreds of years ago we had decided to use our intelligence to understand ourselves. We would not have looked for explanations as to why we do what we do by fantasizing about demons or spirits or genes, but we would have asked, 'Why do we hurt one another?' and found answers based on the assumption that human beings are precious and need to be cherished, for all we have is one another. We would have looked not to some mythical power to save us, but to ourselves, knowing that we are part of everything that exists, and our capacity to be an individual, while at the same time being joined to everyone and everything, gives us a great power, a power which we can have very rarely used to our benefit, a power which the Church and the State have exploited to set one group in enmity against another. If hundreds of years ago, we decide to use our intelligence to understand ourselves, our history would have been entirely different. We might not have ever discovered the wonders of  motor car, and we certainly would not have discovered the terrors of nuclear weapons. We would have probably been fewer, but then many fewer would have died on battlefield or in childbirth or in hunger. We would have developed the arts beyond anything we can ever imagine now, and all of us would be artists. Our arts would have been informed by tragedy, because tragedy would still be part of our lives, but we would not see tragedy as a punishment for wickedness or a deficit requiring compensation. We would not ignore or blindly try to ameliorate the sufferings of those around us, but we would unashamedly and unabashedly come together in the eternal reciprocity of tears. If hundred of years ago, we have decided to use our intelligence to understand ourselves, we would have understood our wanting for everything and have dealt with it, not by denial and blind grasping, but by turning everything from the demand for immediate gratification into enlightened self interest. We would have understood and taught our children that we should practice kindness, tolerance and sharing not because this will assure our place in heaven or because they are the great virtues, but because a society where all the people practice kindness, tolerance and sharing is a pleasant place to live. It is in our own interests that we be kind and tolerant to others. We would have understood and taught our children that, since our life is limited, we have to make choices and order priorities, and since we cannot have everything, we should focus on having the best. Soon our lives would be very different. As the trees disappear, the rain turns to acid, the temperature increases and the water rise, our lives will change, but not in the ways we wish. Our chances of getting everything will get less and less. We do have a little time. Perhaps even at this stage we could decide to do what we should have done hundreds of years ago.

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