We humans are members of an endlessly fascinating species, constantly at war within and among ourselves. We each exist in and move through a world of astonishing everyday wonders of which we are never aware. That we are not is understandable in that, were we to be aware of them all, we would have no time, given our relatively short lifespan, to do anything at all else but be in a state of constant, overwhelming amazement, like a deer in the headlights, immobilized.
There are around 9 billion of us, yet each is unique, never really knowing anyone other than ourself. But every now and then we should stretch our minds by giving some thought to those things never thought of. Our genetic imperatives, for example. Our DNA is almost identical to the primates and carnivores from which we evolved--and yes, you Tea Party Speakers for God, we evolved! Get used to it.
But for all our genetically based aggressiveness, which has plagued us since before we became identifiably human, we are also programmed for what might be called nobility. Our genetic imperative is centered on the preservation of the species. We protect our children instinctively. With few exceptions, we would without hesitation give our lives to save theirs. And, to our credit, not only our own children, but all children within our circle of influence. Were the starving children in remote areas of the world within our physical reach, I have no doubt but that we would do anything to save them. It is the physical distance which gives us a sense of helplessness. Our only recourse, given the distances separating us, is to contribute money to be used by those physically closer to the problem to help them, and it can always be argued that no matter how much we do to alleviate their suffering, we can and should do more.
I've always been fascinated with sudden, unexpected natural and man-made disasters--fires, earthquakes, explosions, tsunamis, ship sinkings, floods, tornadoes--not for the suffering they cause, but for the very best qualities of our species those disasters bring out. Caught up in violent events, we react instinctively, and to our great credit, most of us act nobly in attempting to protect and save our fellow humans--and often other living creatures also directly involved.
We have created complex societies with complex laws which we obey without thought or question. We hear a siren behind us while we're driving, and we instinctively pull over without giving an instant's thought as to why we are doing it. With few exceptions dictated by circumstances, we stand in line rather than trying to rush to the front. We pay our taxes, we vote...all elementary, simple things until you pause for a moment to wonder why we do these things. We have schools and hospitals and libraries and stores and factories and build roads and bridges and establish national parks and playgrounds. Think of any one of them and wonder how they came to be and why--really why--we invented them.
It is sometimes difficult not to truly despair for the future of humanity. There is so very, very much evil and hatred and bigotry and cruelty and gratuitous stupidity in the world it tends to overwhelm us, and makes it easy to forget the good, the selfless, the caring, the kind. It is, again, to our credit that we pay so little attention to the positive because we expect the positive: it is simply assumed to be the norm. And because the negative still surprises, shocks, and saddens us, we tend to forget that it does so because it goes against what we assume and expect--through desire if not always through fact--to be the norm; to be the way we expect the world to be.
Of all the gifts given humanity, the one which most separates us from all other species with whom we share the planet is hope. With it, we can and do face any challenge. Without it, we are doomed.
I wonder if, were they to look for it, scientists might find a Hope gene in our DNA?
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).