Photo: Flickr/Alyssa L. Miller
I’m using this commentary to ruminate on a thought-provoking statement written by TAE reader alfbell and re-posted to the comment forum by reader Candace:
“No system will ever be successful until the human mind, and the spiritual being that utilized it, have been isolated and fully understood. Psychiatry, psychology, psychoanalysis, et al. have failed in this area as well. Very too bad because THIS is the key to man’s future survival.
Find the source of evil and destructive intentions; the need to dominate; the need to destroy what another creates; man’s inhumanity to man; man’s logic; man’s low level of morality; man’s “animalistic” tendencies; man’s inability to predict consequences; etc. and you will save mankind.”
There are generally 3 types of “Doomers,” or realistic thinkers, out there:
1) Those who believe humanity is doomed to extinction or near-extinction no matter what we do at this point in time.
2) Those who believe humanity is probably doomed to extinction or near-extinction, but there is a slim chance we can avoid such a fate if the appropriate measures are taken and all the stars align in the right places.
3) Those who have FAITH that significant portions of humanity will make it through its numerous trials in the near future, difficult and painful as they may turn out to be.
I generally fall somewhere between #2 and #3 right now, but I can say with confidence that I rely on faith to instruct my beliefs. What is faith?? Most people consider faith a part of spirituality – i.e. a fundamental belief that human individuals and societies can overcome their inherent tendency towards committing “evil” acts and avoid their experiences of mortal suffering.
All major religions today incorporate the two components of this belief into their spiritual teachings – that 1) humans are inherently prone to sinfulness and suffering (we are born slaves to our sin and mortality), and that 2) humans can ultimately avoid those things by following specific paths (we can break the chains of our slavery).
I find a lot of value in that belief, but I disagree with many people about how to acquire the faith necessary to get on the proper path to changing oneself and, PERHAPS, the course of humanity. A lot of people will try to tell you that faith is an irrational, illogical and emotional drive – that it cannot be derived from the rational (or scientific) mind. This view is best summed up by the following quote:
“If you love [have faith in] something, let it go – if it comes back to you, it is yours forever, if it doesn’t, then it was never meant to be”.
I prefer the exact opposite version:
“If you have faith in [love] something, hold on to it with whatever cognitive ability and emotional strength you can muster – if it still manages to escape you after that, then run after it and try to get it back”.
As you may have guessed, my version is not the EASY one to follow. It is not even the one I practice in most aspects of my own life, because I find it much too difficult. Yet, it is still what I believe to be true. Faith is not about a care-free attitude or an unquestioning, dogmatic belief in certain laws or truths. It is about time, effort, logic, critical examination, emotional stability, and, ultimately, free will. If you want to have faith in the survival of humanity through these trying times, you must be diligently intent on acquiring it through your thoughts and actions.
Faith in humanity is not about perfection – humans will never become perfect beings. What we can become, though, is free from our desires to destroy ourselves and others around us through our actions and addictions – our seemingly limitless capacity to, as alfbell puts it, destroy what others create; to be inhumane towards others. Once those desires are squashed, it is quite irrelevant whether we stumble and fall once in a while (we most certainly will), because we will be eternally capable of picking ourselves up.
“What I’m trying to figure out is if we all fail to be our best selves at least some of the time, are there any structures we can impose on ourselves that will at least keep us from causing massive damage to ourselves and the planet?”
Yes, but these structures will not be any economic, political, religious or legal systems, or even Divine commandments handed down from a Supreme God. They will literally be our conscious, rational, freely-made decisions to have faith in ourselves and humanity. Once we choose to unshackle ourselves from the chains of our addictions, i.e. once we make firm commitments to strive towards the better angels of our nature – to constantly desire something more sustainable in our minds – the self-destructive materialism that currently inhabits humanity will no longer dominate its future potential.
Those are my ruminations on faith and humanity – what are yours?
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