Spring…a time of growth, or regrowth if you will…

From our first footsteps as modern humans, our species has moved forward, stretching our potential as we improved our mortal condition, each new step taking thousands of years before its imprint could be seen. It took humanity about 190,000 years to move from the Stone Age to the first human civilizations. The modern era begans about 12,000 years ago and includes the present time. In those 12,000 years though, it is in the last few hundred, and especially in the last half century, that human kind has shown that it might be ready to make the next step forward. At least, I hope we are.

Consider for a minute the advances of humanity during the Stone Age, so called because of the technological breakthrough and refinement of making tools out of stone. These early folks also had crude language and social skills, but were largely hunter-gatherer, subsistance types. But their mastery of fire, and eventual knowledge about natural pharmacology and animal behavior, in addition to their other skills, proved that they had mastered most of what any creature needs to endure: they knew the “how” of living. By the end of the Stone Age, the advent of agriculture was the icing on the cake, and the launchpad from which human beings leaped towards the next big move forward, they “why” of living.

Enter the rise of civilization, both ancient and modern, for aside from the technology, the mechanics haven’t changed all that much. For about the last 12,000 years, population centers in Asia and India, today’s Middle East and Egypt, the Mediterranean, and the lower Americas spawned people of thought and enterprise. Some formed the political structures, other the religious teachings, while still others turned towards the arts or the natural sciences.
For the first six or seven thousand years, civilization was tribal in nature, for lack of a better term. But about six thousand years ago the first “states” arose in Egypt, the Middle East and Indus Valley. These early pre-nations developed complex religions and infused them into the political structure and general culture of their societies, and eventually gave rise to the geopolitical map we know today. Through religious teachings and political-social mandates, humanity had provided himself with an answer to the “why” of living, and has spent the last 2000 years fervently fighting about which version is the truth. But to our credit, we have also managed to increase our knowledge about the world and the universe and the subatomic universe that makes up all matter. We have gained insights into the depths of our world and the folds in our brains. On the whole however, humanity has not been able to reconcile the faith of religion with the precision of science. Especially when the tenets of the religion can’t stand up to the empirical evidence or the modern times. Still, our technological prowess continues to expand at exponential rates, outstripping the mores of traditional religion with it’s sheer speed and marvel and engendering an expectation of self-satisfaction or greed that drives change. That, and religion continue to be the prime drive for billions of people, but that very individual drive, or rather the manipulation of it, may be the thing keeping humanity from taking the next step in our species’ evolution- the “what” of living.

Some will say we already have the “what” of living, that our religious faiths tell us what we should do. From an individual perspective, I may say, “Great. Glad that works for you.” But that’s not really the “what” I mean. Consider the change that took place when homo sapiens transitioned from Stone Age to The Age of Civilization. If ever there was an apt use of the night and day metaphore this would be it. And the leap from a human species dominated by religion and greed to one committed to bettering the entire species as a whole would be as dramatic.

Mankind has some serious challenges in the not-so-distant future and how (or whether) we work together to solve these issues will define the future of our species- the “what” if you will. It took our species 190,000 years to move out of the caves and into the light. It was a slow move, but we had the time and we had a common goal- to move forward. We’ve spent the last 12,000 years moving away from each other and our natural world. We’ve still moved forward, but hardly in concert. And increasingly, it seems that our only common goal is to destroy each other while asserting a particular religious philosophy or exploiting a particular resource. It would be a shame to spend another 188,000 years doing that. And quite frankly, I doubt we have that much time left on the clock if we keep going like this.

It is time to put religious differences down. It is time to put cultural differences down. It is time to put national greed aside. It is time to end provocations of war and acts of terror, both physical and economic. It is time to take the next step. And the funny thing is, you don’t have to give up your beliefs or selfish desires. After all, we didn’t stop using fire did we? You only have to be willing to refuse to allow those things to stop human progress, whether that comes from spacial colonization or ecological rejuvenation.

I think humanity can take the next step. I think there is a minority out there who are ready to put that foot forward. I just wonder when the rest of the pack is going to jump on board.