So, we find ourselves, in a world where our population, knowledge and capabilities continue to explode. But at the same time we continue to cause a lot of misery for each other; we struggle with the business of living together on this planet. This is true at all levels, from the inner psyche out to the global level and even to our relationship with the sphere of life.
Yet none of us want to partake of any misery, we just wish to follow our bliss. But we find ourselves mired in this world which perpetuates unwelcome experiences, a world less benevolent than we would wish it to be, largely due to the actions of other humans.
We can imagine a world more to our liking, a world more nurturant of human being. But is this just a cotton candy daydream, a phantom of the mind? Or is it possible for humans to learn how to live together more fruitfully, in a more harmonious manner? And how might we go about this?
It might be more productive to look at these questions in reverse. That is, do we really have to keep living the way we do in this world? Is it really necessary that we live with all of the violence, hostility and greed that exist today? Or, in the most pragmatic formulation, can’t we do better than this?
In essence, there is a disconnect between our feeling of how we want the world to be for us and how the world is. We would like the world to treat us in a kindly way, but even if we personally experience beneficence, we can deduce less comfortable possibilities lurking in the shadows.
We learn that human beings aren’t always treated by other human beings as we ourselves would like to be treated, in fact are sometimes treated in ways quite contrary to this. We understand that the world is an existential minefield, filled with blessings but laced with threats to our inner peace and physical bodies.
Because the history of our getting to this point is so full of examples of man’s inhumanity to man, it is understandable that one might infer them to be an inescapable facet of human reality. But, if you take a long view, if you see humanity as an undertaking still in its startup phase, you can envision possibilities for human mutuality that might seem fanciful today.
Especially if you see that essential to our nature as humans is what you might call our technological impulse. By that, I mean more than just the urge to fabricate tools and gadgets. In fact, I think this impulse goes far beyond material manipulations. I think at heart, it is the impulse to use our minds to rearrange the world for our satisfaction, to make the world please us.
The dissonance we might feel between our interior wishing and the cold reality of the world can be a positive force. If purpose is a moving towards, it is always simultaneously a moving away from the actual present. The human mind, both individually and as a collective, is a powerful force for distilling possibilities out of the world.
To be mobilized as a purpose, a thought must first be conceived of as a possibility, it must inhabit the set of potential purposes. Then it must be understood as both desirable and feasible.
So, inasmuch as the idea of a more caring world can be thought, understood, craved, and believed in, it can become a human imperative, perhaps even, in the ocean of deep time, a human inevitability, the answering by human unfolding of the question the universe poses to its arising.
- How Shall We Live?
- A Human Way