Thursday, April 14, 2011

Guy McPherson, “The Greatest Source of Humility”

“The Greatest Source of Humility”
by Guy McPherson

“Perhaps the greatest source of humility surrounds us every day. When I was a child of about ten years, I used to lie on the backyard lawn nearly every summer night, staring at the haunting mystery of the starlit sky. The Idaho town of a few hundred people in which I lived produced little light pollution, so with unaided eyes I could see the stars of Pleiades and all the brighter stars. Many of these nights under the stars I wept uncontrollably at my insignificance in the universe. I had never heard of Carl Sagan, but I knew I was cosmically inconsequential, dwarfed as I was by the “billions and billions of stars” above me.

I am humbled that, like the millions of other species on planet Earth, we find ourselves in the magnificent position of occupying the only planet in the universe known to support life. My humility grows deeper when I realize that we have no idea how many species share the globe with us, not even within an order of magnitude. I marvel at the beauty, wonder, and complexity of each one of these species. Then I marvel at our power as we single-handedly drive half the species with which we share the planet to extinction.

That we have this power is truly awesome. That we use it to exterminate the species with which we share the world is the height of hubris. These days, I rarely cry when I gaze upward at the night. But I often weep when I realize how badly we are misusing our power.

Life, in its myriad forms, is almost certainly the greatest wonder in the universe. In the universe, as far as we know, life is restricted to planet Earth. Arguably, the other great wonder of the universe is the human mind, that complex product of natural selection that allows us to ask who we are, how we came to be, and why we are here. It’s the mind, in other words, that inspires sufficient awe to bring us to tears in the face of nature’s grandeur.”

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