Stephen Kahn

Whom do you love?

In Hard to tell on March 30, 2011 at 3:47 am

The catch phrase “Save the Earth” is quite popular these days, and particularly inapt as well.

If we human creatures have any talent above all our others, it is our ability to destroy things. Nevertheless, despite our striving and accomplishments in this area, and despite the current scheme to drill into the earth’s mantle–we are still unlikely to succeed in destroying the entire sphere on which we live.

What is more likely is that we will

A) Destroy most forms of “higher” life besides ourselves, except what we are still busy eating.

B) Destroy ourselves, either by achieving A) or by taking ourselves out more directly through war or disease or global warming or epidemic or whatever.

“Worst” case or “best” case depending on how you look at it, the humans will be gone but the algae and the lichen and the bacteria and the viruses and perhaps a few “higher” life forms at least such as starlings and rats and coyotes and cockroaches and mosquitoes and ants and so on will be around, as well as the huge lump of spinning dirt and water we call “earth” will still be around.

So when humans speak of “Saving the earth” it is a typical example of human narcissism and self-absorption. We mean “Saving the human race.” Being a human, and being fond of a few people, especially my non-genetic granddaughter, I tend to go along with this sentiment. However…

In his great novel Bleak House Charles Dickens immortalized the fictional character of Mrs. Jellyby, a woman filled with love and philanthropy for natives in Africa but indifferent to and neglecting her real family and the people around her. I have met and known real people who resemble her.

I will not claim to be a more admirable person than that fictional character, but my nature leans the other way. I care for people I know but find it hard to love and care for the people I read about in the news of people killing and torturing and abusing and enslaving each other all around the world, most noisily of late in Libya and Ivory Coast.



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  1. i agree that the collapse of civilisation would be a non-event from the perspective of our little spinning blue globe. There is no reason to suspect a link between our perceived self-importance and our actual place in the global ecosystem.

    Yet it still makes me sad – to consider an earth without a human mind to appreciate it. The level after level capacity of the human brain allows those who take the time to be able to step ‘out’ of the system and appreciate it for what it is – rather than living in the moment and merely participating.

    And so my preference would be that there remain a human presence. Not so fussed about civilisation because there does not seem to have been much development of our ‘civilisation’ over the 10,000 or so years since giving up whatever simple life existed before then. It’d be nice if me and mine were to make it through any such transition but that seems a rather egotistical and statistically irrelevant outcome. With that in mind, what should an individual do? Remove oneself from ‘civilisation’? Arm and prepare to repel the hordes of desperates from taking whatever you have stockpiled? Retreat to a spiritual centre and awaken the ‘whatever’ that is the inner self? Give in to your favourite deity and do what you like – placing the end result in the hands of that being?

    Depression is a logical outcome of pondering these little issues too hard. Maybe these are just more signs of our inability to see the absurd as a medium in which we live – and in trying to find straight lines in a sea of spaghetti?

    Just thinking.

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