Russell’s quote from 1950 preceded the cartoon below by more than 60 years. The British philosopher was well ahead of his time with respect to many issues, including the existential predicament of our demise, individual and collective.
Every day I read about human hubris, rooted in civilization. We’ve convinced ourselves that we are stunningly special, as individuals, as members of industrial civilization, and as a species. And we are, at every level, as I’ve frequently pointed out. Considerably less impressive is how we’ve chosen to act toward the living planet, including other humans, with the unearned bounty handed us. Our individual and collective failures to recognize and alter our destructive ways have predictably led to our demise as individuals, as industrial civilization, and as a species.
And yet we feign surprise — or, worse yet, some people actually are surprised — when individuals die, and when we learn about the near-term demise of our favorite civilization and our favorite species. The majority of the most horrifically reckless, self-absorbed animals in planetary history can’t accept the obvious outcome of its behavior. If only Bertrand Russell was here to comment.
The universe we inhabit is approximately 13.8 billion years old. Our species is about 300,000 years old. During a time exceeding considerably more than the initial 99% existence of the universe, Homo sapiens was not present. If the universe is all about us, as believed by people citing god(s), divine energy, “source” or various other imaginings, then the universe has been exceedingly patient.
This, of course, is all old news to regular readers in this space. I’ve been pointing out our absurdly omnicidal ways during our stunningly short tenure since my initial essays in this space a decade ago. Coming up with new ways to express the obvious is a test of my skill as a communicator. I’m neither the first nor the wisest to tackle this issue: Social commentators were slogging through the lonely path of hip-deep mud for generations before I showed up, trying desperately to be heard and understood.
I might, however, be among the last individuals to write social commentary on Earth. Surely there will a prize!
Principled words have been largely ignored. Principled actions have been largely disparaged. Small wonder the wisdom of our “sapient” species has been so brilliantly, cleverly disguised.
Any moment might be your last. As desert anarchist and social critic Edward Abbey pointed out, “nirvana is now.” Let’s grab it.
Every day I am told by self-proclaimed friends that I ought not make predictions. “Climate science is too complex,” they say. As if Thales of Miletus didn’t receive the same criticism upon correctly predicting a solar eclipse in 585 BC. As if my “friends” didn’t believe predictions of lunar and solar eclipses earlier this month. Science is predictive with far greater accuracy and precision than any other alternative.
Every day I’m incorrectly assailed for encouraging inaction. These incorrect diagnoses come from people unable or unwilling to be fully present within the actual, physical universe. They are unaware of those I have influenced to live without fear or judgment. They are unwilling to embrace life, love, and the act of living fully. For these people I’ve given advice, in various outlets and various ways, most of it ignored and insulted.
I can lead a person to knowledge but I can’t make him think. Perhaps my work is done.