Signing up for an online newsletter last week, I got this message:
I know what it meant – it was someone’s way of putting a new twist on “let us know you’re not a robot”. But I couldn’t help taking it further. Was I really just confirming my own humanity, or confirming that humanity is a real, valid and meaningful experiment? It sounded more like an invitation than a command to me, and it repeated itself in my mind, mantra-like, for days. Confirm humanity. Until Kurzweil’s prediction about the singularity comes to pass, humanity is really our only choice in terms of a form of existence. Why not verify, validate, substantiate, endorse and generally reinforce it?
Humanity has a better chance of thriving if we do it collectively rather than individually. Somehow, though, we seem determined to use up most of our energy on reaching our individual goals rather than collective survival. John Stewart says in Evolution’s Arrow: “We have been designed for evolutionary success, but poorly.” We can’t quite seem to put the common good ahead of our own self-gratification; to make the best use of our temporary individual existences to better our collective existence.
Stewart thinks we can overcome, and that we can intentionally impact our own evolution (see evolutionarymanifesto.com) although he states pretty clearly that it won’t be easy.
Maybe he’s right. It seems to me easier to find meaning in the day-to-day struggle of existence if I look at it from the context of humanity pushing and dragging itself along some kind of path to improvement. We may not each appear to move very far along the path, at least, not according to what we consider to be progress, but what’s important is that we contribute something to humanity in the meantime. I’m reminded of a radio interview Stephen Lewis did with CBC during which he asserted that it is not hard to make the changes that improve the human condition – you just have to overcome passivity and indifference. I find it hard to listen to Stephen Lewis without being inspired, but I know that impacting humanity is more tangled and confusing and frustrating than it sounds. Lewis himself admits “I ricochet from rage to rage.” But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. Don’t give up on humanity. Confirm it.