As we travel in space we can see more clearly that we enjoy a unique experience as living creatures. We are part of the cavalcade of life on this special planet; we can rejoice in the gift of life. Whether this gift originated with an “unmoved first mover” is a metaphysical riddle. But we need not search too far to find godlike powers in the universe today. We as a species are exerting them now in a display unprecedented since creation began.
Homo sapiens has appropriated two thirds of the land of the planet, destroying the habitat for millions of other species and extinguishing them. As this millennium ends, the technology of industrialism has damaged the ozone shield for all life and has triggered an epochal change in global climate. We are not immortal, but our acts are.
Our species is acting like gods using primal powers to reorder the universe, but who would claim that we have the wisdom, let alone the right, to do so? We are doing this for our uses alone. The rights and needs of our co-venturers on this planet are not even acknowledged.
The question is not why we exist but whether we deserve to exist as supposedly rational beings if we act like conquerors rather than caring beings willing to share the planet with all those who are less powerful, and to act with restraint in respecting the needs of others and all life to come. As a species, we are on trial to see whether rationality was an advance or a tragic mistake.
Michael McCloskey, environmentalist and attorney, is chairman of the Sierra Club.
A man is mortal while mankind is not. I trust that believers and nonbelievers alike recognize this. Like a human embryo that evolves through all stages of evolution, the human spirit repeats the cosmic history of mankind in its microcosmic development, thus binding the past and the future. This deep bind, this intertwining of cosmic and microcosmic development within each human being, shapes the meaning of life and its values. In fact, life’s meaning and life’s values are more precious than life itself.
Mankind’s technological evolution, primarily the development of nuclear weapons, has now deprived mankind of immortality. As the cancer cells of nuclear arms have already yielded powerful metastases in certain countries and across national boundaries, our generation faces perhaps its greatest task: eliminating those seeds of destruction and restoring mankind to immortality. The experience gained through that joint mission wil help us to realize life’s meaning and the ways of handling other threats to life on this planet, brought forth through the aggregated activities of man. —
YEVGENI VELIKOV, physicist and key adviser on arms control and science issues to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, is the vice president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and chairman of the International Foundation for the Survival and Development of Humanity.
The idea is to leave here a little smarter. —
Reyeb - A Prophet
“The evolution of the world is a great manifestation of God. As scientists understand more and more about the interdependence not only of the living things but of rock, rivers — the whole of the universe — I am left in awe that I, too, am a part of this tremendous miracle. Not only am I a part of this pulsating network, but I am an indispensable part. It is not only theology that teaches me this, but it is the truth that environmentalists shout from the rooftops. Every living creature is an essential part of the whole.
All creatures have special attributes. Our particular attribute is the ability to reason. With reason we are enabled to react independently from our environment. What are we supposed to do?
Our surroundings are awesome. We see about us majestic mountains, the perfection of a tiny mouse, a newborn baby, a flower, the colors of a seashell. Each creature is most fully that which it is created to be, an almost incredible reflection of the infinite, the invisible, the indefinable. All women and men participate in that reflected glory.
We believe that we are in fact the image of our Creator. Our response must be to live up to that amazing potential — to give God glory by reflecting His beauty and His love. That is why we are here and that is the purpose of our lives. In that response we enter most fully into relationships with God, our fellow men and women, and we are in harmony with all creation.”
Desmond Tutu, South African civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, is the Anglican Archbishop of Capetown.
We’re in love. We just want to be together. What’s wrong with that? —
Suzy - Moonrise Kingdom
The Old Testament Book of Micah answers the question of why we are here with another question: “What doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
We are here to witness the creation and to abet it. We are here to notice each thing so each thing gets noticed. Together we notice not only each mountain shadow and each stone on the beach but, especially, we notice the beautiful faces and complex natures of each other. We are here to bring to consciousness the beauty and power that are around us and to praise the people who are here with us. We witness our generation and our times. We watch the weather. Otherwise, creation would be playing to an empty house.
According to the second law of thermodynamics, things fall apart. Structures disintegrate. Buckminster Fuller hinted at a reason we are here: By combinations, we counteract this flow of entropy. We make new structures, new wholeness, so the universe comes out even. A shepherd on a hilltop who looks at a mess of stars think, “There’s a hunter, a plow, a fish,” is making mental connections that have as much real force in the universe as the very fires in those stars themselves. —
ANNIE DILLARD, Pulitzer Prize-winning essayist, poet and teacher, is the author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek