I love people.
Why are you making that face?
You can tell how much I love people by the fact that I’m constantly disappointed by them; only a thing you love can disappoint you.
I think the source of that disappointment is a desire to see the potential of our species on full display when there isn’t some threat or crisis to rouse it; for people to come together to accomplish something based on idealism, rather than necessity.
Why does it take something dire before we demonstrate our collective potential? Why does every great collective effort seem to be the result of some sort of crisis or coercion? Even the greatest achievement of the Human race –putting men on the surface of the moon– despite what Kennedy said, came about largely because of a national fear of the Soviets beating us to it. Sure, NASA is still doing great things, but in the absence of a similar looming threat –terrorists not having declared Jihad on Space– the agency is clinging on with its fingernails under constant threat of an ever-shrinking budget.
So what’s the deal, why does it seem that we’re incapable of unified greatness without looming tragedy?
Here’s my thought: happiness.
Once people are happy, once our basic needs are met and we’re relatively safe, most of us find no compelling need to make grand efforts, to trade comfort and pleasure for struggle and effort. I get this, I really do. After a long week –and my weeks are ridiculously long these days– all I want to do is bask in the presence of someone dear to me and cram pleasurable things into the various holes in my head: food, music, shows and sights. And from an evolutionary perspective, as a species, this motivational plateau makes even more sense. The Human race has made it, folks: top of the fuckin’ food chain, virtually complete command of nature –Netflix and Chill a bit, right?
That’s how animals behave. In the absence of any biological needs, animals do fuck-all. They have no inherent purpose to their lives other than to breed more of themselves. And whether or not there’s an external, inherent purpose in sentient life, we have the ability to define one for ourselves.
I don’t want this to read this as an indictment against recreation or pastimes. I’m happy that millions turn off their televisions and get out into the world to create or do wonderful things –your Interpretive Yoga podcast is not on trial here. But those millions are still the exception. And despite being armed with historically unprecedented wealth, opportunity, and most importantly, information, only a handful are actually choosing to participate in grand projects that push our species forward.
And I certainly wouldn’t be such a dick as to imply that people who are content to live simple lives –or especially those that have no choice in the matter– are animals. But if you’ve got the means to do amazing things, why the hell aren’t you doing them? Why aren’t we all doing them together? Why the hell is it 2015 and we’re still a one-planet species, mired to the neck in bullshit, rather than exploring the universe?
Dinosaurs were at the top of the food chain once, and now we pump them into our cars so we can go to work and the mall and soccer practice. What other species is going to come along and decorate buildings with our bones if we don’t Human the fuck up?