I don’t think we’re going to make it. We: the human race. Every age has been sure that this is it, The End. We were pretty sure about it during the Black Death, arguably with good reason, and then again for decades after we started playing around with nuclear weapons. It’s hard to say exactly when we’ll end, but we will. Our time is running out and in spite of our vaunted intelligence and ability to plan for the future we are shockingly short-sighted and our rate of self-destruction has accelerated.
And let’s be clear: the planet is going to be fine. This massive old girl is going to give herself a good, hard shake to dislodge us and what’s left is going to rebound until it’s their time to go.
As these things go, we haven’t made a particularly long run of it, but what we’ve come up with in our measly ten thousand years or so is staggering both in its stupidity and its brilliance (plastic comes to mind). When you think about it, the mystery is less how much longer we can hang on than how the hell have we managed to get this far?
With our sophisticated technology and by simply paying attention we know which areas to avoid when rebuilding after an earthquake. Yet in every quake-prone region we resolutely rebuild right where we know the next quake is going to take us out. We wade back into flood zones with shovels, prayers, and gutsy determination to “reclaim” what’s ours only to lose it all over again in the next round of flooding. And still lobby our representatives to keep flood insurance affordable.
All that, though, that’s kid’s stuff. We have global climate change to contend with now and about all we can manage is to argue and build electric cars (because this world definitely needs more cars). What do we think is going to happen to the UK and most of Europe should the gulf stream get diverted by all that fresh runoff from melting Greenland and the Arctic circle? Africans and South Americans are not going to be happy about that refugee situation although there’s certainly some cosmic justice to the scenario.
We’re greedy and driven by fear. We have the attention spans of gnats. We get mad and we get even. We are eating up the only place where we can live and what’s coming is not going to be what we expect or are prepared for.
And, yet, how can you not love us? We keep surprising ourselves with the most sublime and astonishing things. Mega stupid obscenely rich men like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett almost work harder to give their money away than they did to amass it. We sit in our cars and float to the glories of Schubert or Hovhannes. We can send poetry to the other side of the planet. We save up money to build schools for impoverished girls in far away countries. We are Vermeer, Tubman, Sagan, Wilde, Szymborska, Lennon, Streep, Disraeli, Baez, Curie, Žižek, King, Monroe, Franklin (Aretha and Ben), and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Better than all that, though, see what happens when someone is crying quietly on the subway. See how that girl standing nearby slips her a tissue without a word or a look? Stand near the gateway of a park where a determined and not very bright Canada goose keeps trying to make a break for it and watch how every single person passing will pause to shoo that goose back into the park. I’m talking everyone from the ladies with the copies of the Watch Tower, young mothers pushing strollers, even yammering packs of teenagers…everyone stops what they’re doing to make sure that dumb goose doesn’t get run over.
See what I mean? We are nuts. No sense of priorities. We give to charities that rob us blind and walk right past someone sleeping on the sidewalk in the rain. We, most of us, genuinely believe that we are good people and (for the most part) we are. The problem is that we remain hungry, scared, dangerous animals with no natural predators and very little common sense.
It won’t happen to me. It’s not going to happen here. Not in our lifetimes. Don’t worry. Be happy. Fill up the tank and let’s hit the road.
I’m really going to miss us.
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