Many centuries ago, Socrates warned us that the unexamined life is not worth living. With this in mind, perhaps it is time we began to more thoroughly examine ourselves as a species. Who and what are we? What have we done, and why have we done it? What do we want to be in the future, both as individuals and as members of human society? It isn’t just a matter of agreeing that our world has grown smaller, that human inventions have broken down barriers and brought us closer than ever before, it is also, and mainly, a matter of searching our minds and hearts and souls to determine what kind of individuals we want to be, living as we do in a word that needs changes in order to assure a livable planet in centuries to come.
There are those who believe that our species is riddled with inherent flaws, “Darwinian flaws,” as someone described them, and that our destiny must be played out on that basis. We have of course lived with the ravages of nature throughout our existence, and we have come to accept these as forces we cannot alter or control, somewhat in the same way we have acquired the belief that our inherent human feelings are natural and unchangeable.
Our political, religious, commercial and industrial institutions and systems have not been able to solve the plethora of human problems: xenophobia, fanaticism, greed, corruption, fear, poverty, injustice, ignorance, power, lust, etcetera. Science has brought us many wonders, some benign, some not. Along with instant worldwide communication we have the threat of nuclear destruction. As science understands more and more about our natural world, it also understands that many of our inventions are harmful to ourselves and our planet. We cannot rely on science to solve our human problems, nor the ones science itself has generated. As Einstein said, we can’t solve our problems using the same kind of thinking we used to create those problems.
If, as a species, we could concentrate on developing the better sides of our nature, love, generosity, compassion and justness, as well as understanding who and what we are in the world we live in, perhaps we could still have a happy and workable existence for all. Instead of putting families in prison for crossing borders to escape violence and misery, we could welcome them with open arms and assure them of a place in a land vast enough to accommodate many more people. If, as a species, we could learn to set an example of kindness, and set aside our fears and prejudices, perhaps we could slowly build a human society free of the things that plague us.
I believe it was Confucius who said that in order to set the world in order first we must put our country in order; to put our country in order first we must put our state in order; to put our state in order first we must put our family in order; to put our family in order first we must put ourself in order. In other words, we each need to examine ourself, realize that we are not alone, that we are a part of everything, and that the way we think and act does indeed affect the entire world.