For much of my life I have searched for the positive side of the human condition. I grew up in the 60’s − an era of great hope and change. I grew up with a belief that our species was destined for great things. As humans became more educated, as living conditions improved, then empathy, compassion, love and collaboration would be greater; wars would become redundant; we would recognise our deep connectedness to all things; we would exist harmoniously with the planet on which we live; humans would go on to explore space and become a multi-planet species. I held in my heart the hope that we as a species were headed for great things. I suppose I carry inside me my alter ego of a “hopeful hippie”.
Humans have the means to achieve all of the above but sadly, not the will.
In my reflections I had not reckoned with the truly amazing, horrifying power of greed and its fraternal twin: consumerism. We would rather dedicate ourselves to the accumulation of wealth and power with little or no regard for the suffering of millions, for the greed of a few, or simply buying pointless crap, stuff we simply don’t need, but we simply cannot live without. All of this craziness is an attempt to fill the sense of existential emptiness and basic dissatisfaction (known in Buddhism as “dukkha”). Greed and consumerism do not work and never can. Greed and consumerism are addictions which make us hungrier, greedier, emptier and more desperate. In other words, it simply makes it worse.
Our actions are rapidly dragging our species and millions of others to the dark and eternal abyss of extinction.
From an anthropocentric point of view the extinction of our species is a heart-breaking tragedy. However, as sad as it might be, the norm is extinction; 99,9% of all species that have ever existed are now extinct and we are clearly heading for that same exit. To avoid this we would have to be outstanding in so many ways. As I wrote earlier, we have the potential but not the will.
Extinction does not mean that the party is over; the party will carry on; simply our species will have to leave.
If we look at this from a non-anthropomorphic view, then it’s not such a big deal. Nothing is permanent; all that is born will die and all that exists will change and will cease to exist in its current form. I mean everything − the stars, the mountains, our sun, all will cease to be. So how should we spend our time?
I would suggest that the most worthwhile enterprise is to help all beings to experience connection, reducing suffering by helping remove ignorance; in other words, practice compassion, gratitude for the miracle of being here (irrespective of whether you believe we have cocked up or not); simply being here now is a mindboggling, improbable, miraculous and wonderful thing to experience. Understanding the bitter sweet truth of impermanence can help us to live better lives and be better prepared for death.
To realise these things is to realise our true and natural state which is love.