We humans, especially those of us in the Western world, are paranoid, fearful, greedy, and — if one takes into account how long we have been around and evolving — I would say rather stupid.
Now the good news.
By our very nature we are also hopeful, insanely optimistic, sharp-edged and clear-sighted, gentle to the bone, nurturing and joyful.
For sure we are a complex mix of miscellaneous characteristics.
Some of us possess more of one variety than another. But what the heck, a little more hope, a bit more anger, no big deal. Somehow it all balances.
Or does it?
I’m not sure, but what I do know is in spite of a hodgepodge of greed and joy, paranoia and optimism, we are all we’ve got.
We are all in one place: planet Earth.
We have one common goal: survival.
And we have only one way to get there: partnership.
But what sort of partnering can we expect in a world so divided on the fundamental issues of war and peace, technology and innovation, individual freedom and collective unity?
A review of our many cultural histories does not produce a flood of sustainable partnerships we can mimic.
One thing is certain, human thinking on global survival will force us to travel down some previously unimaginable corridors.
As Nobel laureate physicist Werner Heisenberg once remarked, “It is probably true quite generally that in the history of human thinking the most fruitful developments frequently take place at those points where two different lines of thought meet.”
As most of the planet awakens to the tremendous ecological crises we have created for ourselves, I am both startled and encouraged at the many original intersections opening up between scholars, governments, industry, NGOs and individuals.
As we continue to turn the heat up on the planet, we do likewise on human ingenuity.
One of these unimaginable fusions of thought and action has arisen at the point where neo-physics and orthodox religion intersect.
Another comes to us in the unusual and sometimes flamboyant meeting of art and science.
But in reality these are not new encounters by any stretch of the imagination, merely the re-acquaintance of old and trusted friends.
Before the time of Christ, the aim of both science and religion was simply — through reason and introspection — to unmask the essential nature of all things.
And even though the world seemed to be full of opposites (nature and culture, animate and inanimate, dream and consciousness, war and peace for that matter), such opposites served to unify all of existence.
Somewhere along our intellectual and emotional roadway to becoming smarter and more spiritual, unity got fuzzy.
We began to pull apart the universe into such obscure and separate notions as motion and light, wave and particle.
We divided cultures into one religious brand or another, taunting each other to divulge, “Just what god are you on?”
And most daringly we slowly began to pull about our human temperament into left-brain and right, reason and intuition, conscious or otherwise.
Clear down at the bottom of this maze of disparity, we thought we found ample reason to become either liberal or conservative, technologist or conservationist, fossil fuel addict or wind powered wacko.
This path of split and conquer, label and characterize, unveiling one truth by masking yet another is not a good one to be on — at least not for very long.
I believe, however, that resolving our common differences by blending our scientific, religious and political differences is not the way to go either.
A bit of disparity is indeed healthy. If nothing else, diverse points of view are intellectually and emotionally motivating, to say the least.
What we do need, and we are a long ways from achieving as I see it, is an uneasy yet circumspect synthesis of all our miscellaneous characteristics.
Finding new corridors in which our thirst for spiritual and rational understanding is satisfied, wherein we can begin to mesh race, poverty and affluence, and in which the best of the political left and right can add to each other’s political agenda, is the way to go.
It is possible, indeed desirable, to embrace differences.
What we have not yet learned, and in light of global warming we had better get on with it, is to more clearly understand the consequences of these differences and their impact on each other and on the planet.
Religion, art, and science all require us to observe the world in ways that are inaccessible to our ordinary senses.
We deal with mathematical models, which explain occurrences we cannot see or have not yet happened.
We are moved to shape artistic forms from models held deep in our unconscious. And we find comfort in a mysticism offering us a concept of death whereby the soul somehow transcends the body.
No matter how this synthesis of differences plays out, it must lead us somewhere. And where it must lead us should never be in dispute: we must draw all people out of poverty while leaving the planet healthy.
That should be good enough for a day’s work.