So far I have made clear the idea that a major change may be necessary in how countries work together in order to ensure a bright future for the planet but before looking into ourselves and technology, let's look at a lighter side of the picture. Specifically, why should we even care about what happens to the planet and us anyway? Why is it important that the countries of the world work together to protect Life and Earth? What is it about Life and Earth that is so precious?
Often life is difficult and we have problems. For example, a friend may complain that they have had a bad day and life is just not fair. Sometimes we can even question if we want to get up in the morning to face the day. Life is always full of challenges and they can lead us to disappointment, but I feel we often forget in the grand scheme of things how lucky we are to enjoy the privilege of life.
For a moment, let's compare our lives to a loaf of bread like the one shown where each slice represents 100 years of time, one single lifetime. The bread loaf stretches into the past 100's of miles to the time that life began. You and I will live our lives in one and the same slice. All the people you and I will ever meet in the world are a part of that same slice and when our time is past we will be gone from the world, as we know it. Think of the people in the slice before us. They all had their dreams and ambitions. They had their loved ones, their jobs, and their pets, just as we do in our slice. The difference is that everyone in the slice before us has had their lives and they are gone, and so on and so on. Here you and I are living in our slice.
We have one valuable asset that all those in the virtually infinite number of slices before us do not have. We are alive! That is our greatest asset and so often I believe we take this for granted. One day, you and I, our slice, will be gone with all those who we have ever known. All our dreams, our wars, the things we love and hate, the things we own - all gone. Those in the next slice who take our place may be our sons, our daughters, or any creature that might be so fortunate to take our place. Hopefully during our lives we will care for the world and leave it the same beautiful place for those in the next slice so they also can equally enjoy the pleasures it has allowed us to enjoy.
All the pleasures that we can experience from our existence in the short time we will have together are our greatest gift. For all the suffering we may endure in our lives there is so much pleasure we can enjoy. The good moments are what we live for - the taste of honey, the smell of roses, the touch from a loved one, to express our creativity to the world. In the grand scheme of things, aside from all our differences, it is so important that we care for each other and the beautiful things that the Earth has to offer.
So let's talk a bit about our senses. Our senses have evolved to allow us to perceive and experience the world that surrounds us. They help us to survive. We often think of them as to see, to touch, taste, hear, and feel. What are these strange things called senses that seem to be the essence of life itself, yet like life, so difficult to define?
Our senses lead us through life, allow us to experience it, and give us so much pleasure. I remember my third grade teacher said, "we live for the good moments". I feel her words were so true. Our senses truly are the source from which we gain our greatest moments. They are the reason we choose to live and value our existence.
If any of us were in a coma where there was no hope that we would see, feel, hear, smell, or touch the world around us, we surely would question life without these pleasures. Though it is a sad thought, it highlights how much we value our ability to perceive and sense the world that we are a part of. Is it any surprise that we can't help but love to see a dog rush out in the park to play in the water, or to watch a child with a smile so elated to touch and feel the objects around them as if they had never been seen before? Our senses are what remind us that we are alive.
Imagine our basic senses - to see, to hear, to smell, to taste, and to feel. Now think of all the things around us in the physical world that we could ever be capable of perceiving or sensing. There is light - that phenomenon of photons bouncing from one object to another. Also around us we "hear" sound waves that originate when objects collide and cause the air to vibrate. There are molecules that float in the air around us that we "smell" and of course there are those denser objects such as chairs, and tables, people, and walls that we "feel" as we move through our world.
Our senses exist in order to enable us to perceive the energy and matter around us so that we can move through the physical universe that we are a part of. I find it amazing that all our senses are so well tailored toward detecting and receiving all the energy and matter that we might perceive around us. Let's look at some examples of just how incredible our senses are.
Our eyes collect the photons that bounce off the objects around us. What an efficient way to alert us of an object coming our way before it actually hits us. With our eyes we can react to a car driving toward us because the photons (light) reflecting from the car get to us faster than the car. I think this may be one of the reasons why, of all our senses, our sight may be the one we rely on most to survive.
Let's look at our sense of sound. With our ears we collect the sound waves that exist at any time around us, but they are more ambiguous and slower than the exactness of the photons that we see. Nevertheless, if a car honks its horn from a distance we are warned of its presence. We learn to attach "meaning" to each type of sound so for example we know the sound of a car horn means trouble. Similarly, a deer in a silent forest hears the sound of a snapping twig and this alerts it that there may be trouble nearby. Imagine a bat that uses sound as its primary sense to avoid the walls in a cave and even find its prey so that it can survive.
What of our sense of smell? Imagine someone's pet dog. Even if he were without the senses of sound or sight I am sure he would find an open fridge in seconds with his nose honing in on the delightful smells that might be indicative of his next meal. We have our noses to sense the molecules that float around us and instinctively we have learned to react by moving toward the smell of sweet flowers and away from the smell of a polluted river.
Now a look at our sense of taste. Our taste will only sense the molecules that we are about to take into our body but what could be more important? The taste of sweetness signals our body instinctively that what we are about to consume will have concentrated energy which will help us survive. Is it any surprise that it is our instinct to love the taste of "honey" or "sugar"? On the same token, if we taste a bitter berry, the taste may indicate to us that it is poisonous. Certainly our sense of taste is very important to our survival.
Finally, let's look at our sense of touch. We feel objects that lie in front of us so that we can move around them to reach wherever we wish to go. We can feel warmth or cold, or sharpness and smoothness. We can feel the wind blow on our face on a warm sunny day. We can feel the touch of a loved one.
The reason why I have taken you through this short journey of the physical senses is to remind us all how important our senses are to our survival and also how enriching they are to our lives. We truly do live for the good moments whether these are sensations we find in our physical world or sensations that we derive from our thoughts and imagination like love, hope, and compassion.
It would be wonderful to understand why we sense and what it is to be alive but even more important I think is to just enjoy being alive in the time we have. We need to appreciate to the fullest the fact that we are here now, so that we can experience our one slice of time in the loaf of bread.
It is clear our senses are important but equally so is the nature of the world around us that we sense. In other words, it is so important for us to protect the beauty of the world around us that keeps our senses alive - that keeps us alive. Every day that we protect a species that brings us happiness is another day that we will be able to sense something in our world that we value - another day we will enjoy another precious moment of life.
Each day as we sense the world that surrounds us we are able to enjoy the richness of life, but we must be responsible and protect what we have. If we are unable to appreciate and value our privilege of life then we will not care enough to resolve our conflicts and gain control over our rapidly changing world. We have to find it in ourselves to make a greater effort to work together so that we can preserve Life and Earth. Leaders of countries must recognize how important what we have is and that we need to work together to preserve it. All the things around us that our senses relay to us - the colors of the Earth, all the species, our fellow human beings, our pure waters, and the air that we breathe. We need to care for these things like they are our own lives.
Are our fellow creatures so different from us? I find that for example, if a spider does not threaten me in my home, I will place it under a glass and slip a piece of paper under it and free the spider to the outside. It is a small investment for me so that a living creature might not feel pain and might survive life a little longer to enjoy its pleasures. Sometimes when I am walking on a sidewalk and see a worm struggling half way across as it dries after the rain I will get a small leaf and pick up the worm to place it in the grass.
Why would one do such things for such lowly evolved creatures? I believe it is not so much about saving a worm or a spider nor is it about getting something in return sometime in the distant future for our gesture. Instead, I think it is about what these actions reflect about us as human beings. If we care about the survival, the pain, and the pleasure for all life, it means that we are willing to give a bit of ourselves for the welfare of other life, including each other. It may be that none of us can save the world but in every small action we take to reduce the pain and bring pleasure to the world it becomes a better place.
On this subject I want to tell you my interpretation of a short story that you may have heard of. It is one of those stories that when you are young you never forget.
There once was a young slave boy in the days of the Romans. One day he went off into the meadows by himself and he heard a loud roar that brought him to stop in his footsteps in fear. He looked ahead and he saw a great lion lying in the grass in the distance. He slowly approached the lion and the lion stared at him. The boy could see a thorn in the lion's paw and that he was in pain. The boy went toward the lion. One might say the boy was foolish, but he felt for the lion and he took the chance to lean toward him and remove the thorn. Upon doing so the lion leapt toward the boy and stared at him after which the lion disappeared into the forest.
Many years later the boy had grown to a man. Still a slave, he had become trained as a great gladiator but his life was destined to be in the Roman coliseum where he would fight to the death. His day came and as he stood in the coliseum with his sword in hand they opened the gate. Out from the gate came a lion, the very lion that he had once saved in the meadow. The lion remembered the young gladiator and spared him in return for his kindness when he was a boy. The spectators could not fathom how a gladiator could have such power over a lion. This had never occurred before. They chose to allow the gladiator his freedom and he was no longer a slave. Only the gladiator would know that the smallest gesture of kindness, so many years ago, had achieved a power beyond what any of them would ever comprehend.
Empathy toward all creatures means that sometimes we must give of ourselves. Consideration and care for Life and the Earth may bring back to us more than we can imagine. It may be what allows us to survive.
Spider Image courtesy of SweetCrisis at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
While on the topic of consideration for other creatures, it brings to mind an experience I had not too long ago when I was driving to a coffee shop early in the morning. On the side of the road I saw a pigeon that was clearly injured. There were four crows that were coming near and pecking at it obviously planning their next meal. The pigeon tried to flee but it could barely move to protect itself. I watched for a moment and thought that it was only a pigeon but also that it was a creature in pain. I chose to call the Wildlife Association and they kindly offered to do what they could if I brought it to them. I placed the pigeon in a plastic box and drove it to the Wildlife Association, which only took about 20 minutes. I do not know what happened to the pigeon. They might have put it down or possibly fixed its wing and leg if those indeed were the injuries. I do believe though that the pigeon suffered much less pain than it might have.
Later on a friend of mine pointed out to me that there might have been baby crows that missed a meal because of me. It was Nature doing its thing and to interfere might not be the best thing to do. I thought later that whether it was crows today that might have eaten the pigeon, or bacteria tomorrow, there might be other considerations as well.
To me it gets back to the point that it is the gesture that matters, as noted in my previous example referring to whether saving a worm or a spider matters. I put forth a scenario to my friend. Imagine that you see two people. Person A is on the street and shows empathy and acts out the scenario as I did with the pigeon. Person B walks by and shows little interest in the pigeonís situation and suffering. I then asked him that if he were in an accident, which person would he prefer to be there. Would it be the one who showed empathy or the one that was more prone to walk away. He indicated that the more empathetic person might be better. This brings me back to my initial point. Our choices on how we treat Life and Earth do matter. Our gestures of care for other life are a precedent to how we treat the entire world, and each other. In an indirect way how we care for other life touches on the concept of cooperation versus competition. Can we find greater strength through the cooperation that comes from exchanging our care, empathy, and trust with each other?
If humankind can learn to show empathy toward Life and Earth, we carry it with us into the future. Though we do not know what decisions or conflicts we will face in the future, our smallest actions regarding other life today reflect the way we will deal with new situations in the future. Our empathy toward Life and Earth today affects how we will choose to leave the planet for the generations ahead that will take our place.
So here we are, humankind, creatures' rich with these amazing qualities called senses. Our senses give us so much pleasure and help us to protect what we value most - our existence and survival. Though it is true that we must place value on our existence, we must also not forget to place value on all that surrounds us as well. After all, in the broadest sense, are we not just reflections of the environment and the world that surrounds us?
In order to help convey the idea that we ourselves are reflections of the world, take a look at the photo to the right of the woman, and her reflection on the water. At first you might just see a woman's reflection in the water but if you open your mind can you see that the woman could be seen as a reflection of the water, or going further that she is a reflection of the Earth and the world around her?
Given that human beings and all life are integrated with each other and Earth are we not really just reflections of the world around us? In evolving to what we have become are we not just reflections of the environment of the Earth and all its colors - the air, the water, the trees, the land, and the living species that surround us? Can we open our minds, let go of our egos, and realize that each of us is not the center of the universe? Instead can we see ourselves as reflections of the universe, all of us essential parts of it connected and dependent on one another?
I have talked a lot about our senses. It is no coincidence that our senses, and those of all life, have evolved as reflections of the environment that surrounds us. Our senses allow us to perceive virtually all-possible mediums of matter and energy that we can encounter in the universe, and most importantly in our immediate environment. We see light and hear sound. We taste, smell and touch the physical objects that surround us.
Think of the soaring eagle that can see many times better than a man so that it might see the slightest movement of a rabbit on the desert below. Think of an owl with extraordinary night vision. It has eyes so sensitive that it can see at night much better than any human or other creatures. Even bats use sound to navigate as they fly in the dark. All life forms seem to have evolved as a reflection of their environment so they can survive.
Mutations and genetic variation allow life to adapt and survive as the environment changes. We must recognize though that if we allow the environment to change too much, the variations possible in some species may not be able to adapt. Humankind can for example survive if the level of oxygen in the atmosphere is within certain ranges, but if it goes beyond these ranges like on the moon, we cannot survive without adaptive technologies like a space suit.
If we allow the Earth to become tarnished and damaged, or if we allow the environment on the Earth to change too much, can we see how that as reflections of the Earth we also experience the damage? If there is any question about whether we should make the effort to care about Life and Earth it all comes down to how much we appreciate what we have and what we are willing to do to preserve it.
If you ever wonder how unique the Earth is, simply look up at the hundreds of stars you can see on a clear evening, then be reminded that though beautiful they are far from even close to habitable, as is this precious Earth. Going further, go to an observatory and view the cosmos through a telescope and be reminded that on no celestial body will we find fresh air that we can breathe with ease, a sweet flower that we can lean over and smell, or a warm breeze to touch our skin. There is nothing close to what we have and if there were a planet even remotely close it is in all probability beyond what we can ever reach. Though we might be able to mimic the environment of Earth on asteroids, or Mars, or the Moon nothing comes close to this planet. We are all integral parts of the Earth, each of us is a reflection of it, and we are all connected.
So now we can see the treasure that Life and Earth have evolved to become. We are a part of this treasure and we may in a large part become responsible for allowing it to endure for the millennium to come, or we may be the crippling factor that brings it to its knees in the not to distant future. Why is it so very important that all countries move forward carefully with new technologies together? In the next section I will discuss this phenomenon called technology that has crept into our lives in only the past few centuries, and why we must move forward carefully.
Deer Image courtesy of Liz Noffsinger at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Pigeon Image courtesy of domdeen at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Owl Image courtesy of thawats at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Stars Image courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net