Today, when I awoke, I checked my watch on the table near my bed… and I had awoken at my regular time. My cat was curled up between my legs, with her head resting behind one of my knees, as she likes to do when the sun first comes up, trying to tempt me to stay in bed just a little longer… It was only later, when I turned on the computer, and noticed that it was an hour later than I thought it was, that I remembered that the clock had been turned forward in the middle of the night. Ah… the computer is so in touch… knows more than I do, most of the time… and the shock of it, that the computer knew what time it was while I still hadn’t reset my clocks and watches, made me think of where we’re going in this world as human beings.
As you know, my friends, man knows everything. And if he doesn’t know, he’s quite willing to guess. And once he’s guessed, he’s ready to put his money on it. He’s ready to fight for his opinions… he’s more than ready to knock the shit out of anyone who thinks differently. That’s just the way we are… and as the Americans put it so aptly, love it or leave it. As everyone knows, there are two widely accepted theories of how we got here in the first place.
One is called ‘the creation theory’. This is the religious point of view, and tells us that the king of kings, who is omnipotent, and greater than we could possibly imagine… having some spare time one day, created the universe. The second theory is scientific. It is accepted by a lot of people and taught in public schools, as if there was no question about it. It says there was this little bit of dust (no explanation of how that dust got there), and it just sort of sat around for a long, long time, and then evolved itself into earth, moon, and stars, rivers, seas and mountains, junipers and mosquitoes. And once we had the monkey… it was one small step to mankind. There are so many really great people on both sides of this debate, that I don’t believe it would be right for me to take a side. I’ll just speculate about where man is going…
And when it comes to understanding man, it doesn’t really matter which side you take in the great debate between religion and science. If you’re religious, you know that it didn’t take long after man arrived, for him to start eating from the forbidden fruit, and killing his brother… and once we got the population growing, we killed great numbers of people… and often for the right reasons. If you’re on the scientific side, then you know that man started killing animals so he could eat, and used their pelts to make jeans, and raped women because their instinct told them to. They were so successful in overcoming all other life forms on this earth, that by the time Malthus started theorizing, it seemed like we would reproduce till there’d no longer be food to feed upon. And that would be terrible, don’t you know. He published his theory in 1798, and for most of the 19th century, academicians and thinking folks were really depressed about the future of man.
But by the end of the 19th century, man’s knowledge and inventive powers were leap-frogging, and it seemed that there was no end to the ability of man to influence his environment. And this optimism continued to grow during the 20th century, only mildly discouraged by two world wars, and numerous crimes against humanity, both big and small.
Now here we are in the 21st century, and evolution is really hot and jumping. And if you’re on the religious side of the barricades, you’re not really surprised by the way things are going either. It is clear that man has not been taking the path of godliness. However, if you want to look at human progress from an innocent point of view, you could say that mankind is continuously trying to leave his animal existence behind him, and is aspiring to a more spiritual state of being. We’ve left hunting and rape, and sitting around the bonfire behind us (at least I hope we have), and now, as our bodies atrophy, and our waist lines expand (as does the universe), we’ve put the accent on mental activity, as realized by the computer, that fascinating tool which can do almost anything for us, with minimal physical work on our part.
The most striking allegory of our spiritual direction, these days, is the mall. It is there that we become oblivious to the time of day or the weather, as we shop under a never ending synthetic blue sky, and choose between infinite varieties of synthetic clothes and playthings, never knowing how they were made or how they work… but so, so happy to buy them, two for the price of one, if we’re lucky… and in the worst case, at 25% off. And they said that the garden of Eden was fun!
But there is a fly in the ointment. In order to supply the multitudes with McDonald’s hamburgers, and other forms of meat, we’ve had to use some rather artificial methods to produce that food. And the same goes for fish. Actually, as difficult as it might be to believe, even a large part of the vegetables we consume, are raised in an extremely artificial way… and I’m not just talking about the poisons to discourage other living creatures; there’s an increasing enthusiasm for meddling with the DNA of plant life, and eating is no longer as simple as pulling a wild radish out of the ground and chomping on it. In fact, some of the issues that have popped up concerning the food we put in our mouths, bring back the nightmarish visions of Malthus, a little over 200 years ago. We may have to re-examine our eating habits.
And even for those who are not worried about food, there is a certain alienation from nature. I noticed that at nine this morning, when my computer told me it was ten.