Are We Not Earthlings?
Not long before his death, I had the opportunity to meet and have lunch with my favorite author Kurt Vonnegut. It just so happened that his last published work, “A Man Without A Country” was released on that very day.
During the course of our meal, I said to him, “Mr. Vonnegut, I obviously haven’t had the chance to read your new book, but I do understand that it involves a lot of your belief that America has gone in such a poor direction, has become so gluttonous in its consumption of resources, and is generally an embarrassment from a global point of view, that you no longer feel as if you have a country.”
I went on with a certain amount of hopeful trepidation for how my comment was going to be received. After all, I was speaking with Kurt Vonnegut…
I continued, “While I certainly agree with you in this regard, I would like to be able to say that I am a man without a country simply because I would prefer to be regarded as a citizen of the planet earth.”
Vonnegut ignored my thought completely, didn’t seem too pleased with my interpretation of his title, and immediately changed the subject. I certainly didn’t score any points with the big guy with that. So it goes…
But, I do think that many of our human troubles are based on human defined borders.
Think About It…
We all revolve around the sun together on the same planet. We are all stuck on the same rock in a universe that is far too big for anyone of us to fully comprehend. We cannot empirically answer the simplest of philosophical questions.
This should be enough to make us all realize the most common bond we share, that being that we are all in the same proverbial boat, but in our case, we have a paddle.
Humanity is indeed becoming more humane, but the pathway has not yet been linear. We still have so much more to achieve.
I would be so bold as to suggest that when we lose the zeal of patriotism for our country uber alles, when we no longer are so convinced that God is only on our side against the enemy, when we can look at anyone and everyone and realize that they are probably just as confused about things as we are, then, maybe, just maybe, we will begin to live in a better place.
You don’t have to be John Lennon to imagine…
And seriously, to Elvis Costello’s question, what indeed is so funny about peace, love and understanding?
I think it might be prudent to judge our social evolution on how well we interact with our fellow human beings socially and in trade. Interventionist military conflicts would be viewed as failure in regard to the foregoing, obviously. If we are to talk the talk, then we need to walk the walk.
But, on its present course, America is not seeking that world. America is seeking to be an empire. I find that counterproductive and ultimately doomed (as all empires are) to failure…
I would suggest that our individual and personal life experience is far more important than nationalism in the big picture of things. Let’s historically face it, America is much, much more of a philosophy than a country.
Do not think me naïve. What I am suggesting is not realistic presently. But that only makes the need for us to be thinking that way even more important.
I am a resident of planet Earth, as are we all. I have become a free man living in an un-free world.
I just happened to be born in the USA.
For those of my national tribe, I am not disrespecting our country…I am, for fact, trying to expand the principles upon which it was founded.
And I think that Mr. Vonnegut, in his writing, is largely responsible for at least planting the seed of these thoughts in my head. That is something that I will never have the resources to repay.
The problem with youth is that it is wasted on the young, to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw.
But does it need to be that way…in today’s age?
I think that most of us who survived our youth have said something like, “If I only knew then what I know now.”
Ah, there’s nothing quite so compelling as 20/20 hindsight.
Perhaps, just perhaps, today’s youth can have a better opportunity to enjoy their youth, if we let them.
In 1910, about 100 years ago, average life expectancy was 49.2 years.
If you were born in 2009, your average life expectancy is 78.7 years.
So, in a century we’ve added about 30 more revolutions around the sun to the average person.
It wasn’t that long ago that it made sense to be married and have a child by age 16, but those days are fortunately behind us.
Luongo – “Young Mother With Child”
We are living longer. We should thoughtfully consider letting our kids grow-up longer.
I think that with the exponential advances in technology, we will soon be able to add another 30 years of life expectancy to newborns. Could well be more. Seriously.
But the exponential rate of technology is not without its cost. There is a lot more to learn now than there used to be.
Yet, it seems that we are trying to push all the new knowledge into the same time frame that older adults were subjected to when they were kids.
That doesn’t make sense to me.
I see parents today vying to get their kids into the best pre-pre-school. I know that they mean well, but it reminds me of the horrible images I have seen of children’s beauty pageants.
As a parent I find this painful
Frankly Francis suggests that we should let kids be kids a little longer than we used to.
With longer life expectancies and more to learn today, let them take the time to absorb it.
And give them the time to enjoy the process. We have it to give. We will all be the better for it.
Doom and gloom can be an easy trap to fall into. After all, does not misery love company? Well, obsess negatively if you must, but I do not. I think that this is a most wonderful time to be alive.
The Last 100 Years
Let’s take a look at just a few of the advances over the last century. To start with, we had this thing called the Industrial Revolution, the catapult for all to come. Municipal electricity and the telephone were great advances. Then we have readily available automobiles (the horseless carriage, in the vernacular of the time) soon followed by the airplane, television and walking on the moon. Of course my personal favorite advancement during this time period was in-door plumbing.
The Last 25 Years
My youngest daughter, at age 18, has no conception that we ever lived without the Internet, much less computers or 3,147 television channels. Cell phones are ubiquitous. GPS is readily accessible. Digital everything. But, remember that even within this very time frame, pocket calculators and LED watches first became economical to everyone.
The Technological/Information Revolution may make the Industrial Revolution look like a hiccup. The rate of technology turnover is at an unprecedented level and appears to be only getting faster. People are living longer, coupled with a much higher quality of life.
Ray Kurzweil, technology visionary, is planning on living forever and not in the “so far, so good” sense. He believes that if he lives responsibly, in the near future, medical science will be able to fix him before he breaks permanently. Kurzweil is a brilliant human and his opinion is not to be taken lightly.
It is not only reasonable, but also highly likely, based on the march of technology, that within 20 years we will be able to derive ALL of our energy needs from solar power. That does not factor current advancements in electric, wind, geo-thermal, hydrogen and nuclear technologies. Also, nanotechnology and robotics have some really interesting aspects.
So if you are worried about global warming and even if that concern is valid, the greater likelihood is that we will stop greenhouse gas emissions much sooner than the end-of-the-world guys would have you think.
Any technology that can be used for good can also be used for evil. I expect that there will be bad uses of technology, but I think that the good will outweigh the bad overall.
I know that there are those out there rooting for the Christian Apocalypse or the Mayan 2012 calendar end of the world, but I think that in the foreseeable future they will be disappointed. By the fact that we have not managed to nuke ourselves into extinction yet says some good about us.
You know what my biggest worry of all is? It is the possibility that Americans are so fat, dumb and happy that they just don’t care about what happens. Apathy could be our biggest enemy of all. This is a threat and we need to be cognizant of it.
I know that the only constant is change. Because of that, I know that life should continue to get better for all, but realistically, it will be a roller coaster ride. Hey folks, change is never easy, even if it is for our benefit.
So be of good cheer, the odds are overwhelming that the best times are coming.
Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!