Idle Culture

Writings of a cultural dysfunct

Location: Seattle, United States

Monday, September 27, 2004

Edward O. Wilson--The Future of Life

I am currently in the middle of reading "The Future of Life" by Edward O. Wilson, one of the world's premier ecologists. Early on in the book, the following paragraphs really caught my attention, prompting me to read them more than once. The words really capture the importance of caring about the condition of our only planet we call home. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has the slightest interest in lessening human impact on the environment.

“Earth, unlike the other solar planets, is not in physical equilibrium. It depends on its living shell to create the special conditions on which life is sustainable. The soil, water, and atmosphere of its surface have evolved over hundreds of millions of years to their present condition by the activity of the biosphere, a stupendously complex layer of living creatures whose activities are locked together in precise but tenuous global cycles of energy and transformed organic matter. The biosphere creates our special world anew every day, every minute, and holds it in unique, shimmering physical disequilibrium. On that disequilibrium the human species is in total thrall. When we alter the biosphere in any direction, we move the environment away from the delicate dance of biology. When we destroy ecosystems and extinguish species, we degrade the greatest heritage this planet has to offer and thereby threaten our own existence.

…(Humanity) evolved here, one among many species, across millions of years, and exist as one organic miracle linked to others. The natural environment we treat with such unnecessary ignorance and recklessness was our cradle and nursery, our school, and remains our one and only home. To its special conditions we are intimately adapted in every one of the bodily fibers and biochemical transactions that gives us life.”
----"The Future of LIfe"
Edward O. Wilson

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Statistical anomaly

Life is a series of causes and effects and who you are today may not be who you are tomorrow. From birth, we are given a world and told to make do with it what we will. And so, that is what we do. We grow and mature, all the while watching those around us make do with the world they were given. Like many other creatures in the world, we learn by example. Our parents, our family, our society, our culture, and our history play a hand in the molding of who we will become. The roles of each blindly play a lifetime of tug-of-war with each other, each pulling harder as soon as one backs down, each vying to make a mark on who we are and who we will be.

Just for a second, think of the statistical anomaly that you are. The very idea that you were ever born is incredible. The series of events that had to occur for you to be here is marvelous. If one of your ancestors ten generations ago had died before bearing the next in line, you would not be here. The likelihood that the exact gametes from your father and mother that would form you actually joined is spectacular. For every one of you, how many are not here, how many did not win the statistical game of life that you did? And then, the very fact that you endured life in the womb, childhood, and are now an adult is amazing as well. You are lucky to be here.

That being said, what does ‘living a life’ mean? Life is incredibly precious and so to actually live should be our highest priority. However, humans have, to a great degree, lost what it means to live and instead have fallen on their lower instinct to consume whatever is within reach and then some. We have broken away from the ties between humanity and the rest of the living world, putting us at risk of losing the entire meaning of living. We have been following the wrong examples from the wrong people and now we face living an empty life in which our main priority is to acquire more things that add nothing to our lives or to the rest of humanity (or for that matter, to the rest of the living world).

‘Living a life’ cannot mean owning things. It cannot mean your job title, your college degree, your car. ‘Living a life’ has nothing to do with what you obtain in material possessions. To live a life, you have to be a part of the living world. You have to have a connection to other living things. Life is self-renewing and will keep on going after you are gone. Your stuff will not. Spending all of your time chasing after more things will only make you work harder at chasing after more things. You will never find enough things to make your life better than it is already.

The damage that we do in our pursuit for more things is felt by all living creatures and will continue to be felt by future generations. Species that took millions of years to evolve are being lost at higher rates than they can be found, which in turn puts other species at risk for annihilation. Due to many human endeavors, the Earth’s temperatures are increasing at rapid rates, giving us the hazardous effects of global warming, something that does exist and will continue to worsen the longer we ignore it. The list of damages that we have done keeps going and going.

It is obvious that we are living wrong. If we were each shown the amount of destruction that we cause individually for each material possession for which we labor, I don’t think that we would find them valuable anymore. But, we are disconnected to that destruction and so we want what we want and we will get what we want. Our lives should not hinder the lives of other creatures. We should not take more than we can use or plunder those that are weaker for our own personal advantage. We are living as if we are the only ones here. To ‘live a life’ means to honor life, to cherish life, to preserve life. Our pursuits should incorporate those values, not overlook them.

Set a new example--use your statistical anomaly of living for good.

Live a life.

Site Meter