Why are we here? Philosophers and stoners have been pondering that existentialist tidbit for quite some time… But we can’t even decide on how. Some people know for a fact that we just happened. Crawl out of the swamp, a million years and a little natural selection later, and badda-bing, there we are. Other people know for a fact it was God, their God, we have several to choose from, take your pick: some version of an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful being molded us out of clay like Mr. Bill. Still other people figure it could’ve been a combo platter. (Then there’s Scientology.)
Whichever of those explanations float your boat, the question still remains: why? Why are we here? Evolution says we’re basically a freak accident. Like the old National Lampoon parody goes: “You are a fluke of the universe. You have no right to be here.” Mother Nature’s Oops Baby. Does that help those people sleep at night?
I don’t know if going the God route gives you a better insight into why, either. I was raised Lutheran so I pretty much know nothing about religion. A quick check of the Web doesn’t fill in the gaps. A lot of quotes about glory and how God didn’t need to make us but he did because he loves us. Okay, but why? What’s our purpose?
Kurt Vonnegut in “Sirens of Titan” wonders if an alien robot created us so we’d eventually evolve into a civilization advanced enough to manufacture a broken part for his spaceship. Makes as much sense as anything.
What if it’s like an old Star Trek episode where a little alien kid created us just to see what would happen? We’re some extraterrestrial’s life-sized ant farm. He checks in on us from time to time when there’s nothing on extraterrestrial TV but mostly we’re on our own. We’re like a science project, some giant cosmic experiment. Here you go, here’s a planet, let’s see what you do with it…
If that’s the case, how do you think we’re doin’? As a species, what kind of grade would you give us? Call it the mid-term assessment on our group assignment. An “A?” “C?” What’s our scorecard look like?
Vaccines for polio, hepatitis A and B, meningitis, and more? Check.
Test tube babies, cloned sheep, mapping the genome? Check, check, and check.
Smartphones to watch re-runs on a moving train? Got it.
Computer-generated action-packed movies in life-like hi-def? You betcha!
Hydrating shampoo with the scent of real coconut? Yessir!
Microwavable, bite-sized waffles? You know it.
Clean water? Everybody’s got equal access to clean water, food, medical care? Um, well…
Respect for the planet, keeping it clean--- no oil spills, chemicals in our water and air, wildlife doing well? Uh, not so much.
Respect for each other--- no wars, rapes, sweat shops, hate crimes, killing sprees, genocides, girl kidnapping, gay bashing? Um, yeah… About that.
And I’m not sure we have what it takes to bring our grades up. Not while our public discourse is so fractured. While we stay in our own private echo chambers, at least in this country, each with our own agenda and hot buttons. Not until we stop acting like dicks--- stop shouting at each other and listen for a second to what the other guy has to say.
We’re so preoccupied with the cause du jour, passing it around on Facebook, we’re missing the big picture. The systematic destruction of the environment and the climate? Meh… but ban yoga pants in grade school…? Grab your picket signs!
Six starving puppies on the nightly news and we’re rallying our outrage but 20 murdered school children get lost in a screaming match.
Is it just human nature to get distracted by the piddly things and ignore the huge ones? Or are the big issues just too big, we figure, so why bother?
However you believe we got here, we’re the proud owners of this planet, a timeshare really. Maybe if we had some clue as to why we’re here, what’re we supposed to be doing, some sense of purpose… maybe we wouldn’t be such dicks.
Then again, maybe not…
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