Let me begin by quoting Cosmologist and Public Educator Carl Sagan.
"Welcome to planet Earth- a place of blue nitrogen skies, oceans of liquid water, cool forests and soft meadows, a world positively rippling with life. In the cosmic perspective it is, as I have said, poignantly beautiful and rare; but it is also, for the moment, unique. In all our journeying through space and time, it is, so far, the only world in which we know with certainty that the matter of the cosmos has become alive and aware. There must be many such worlds scattered through space, but our search for them begins here, with the accumulated wisdom of the men and women of our species, garnered at great cost over a million years. We are privileged to live among brilliant and passionately inquisitive people, and in a time when the search for knowledge is generally prized. Human beings, born ultimately of the stars and now for a while inhabiting a world called Earth, have begun their long voyage home."
It was today, the day following my twenty-forth birthday that I took a small moment to gather the current feeling of what it is to be twenty-four-year-old-me.
Yesterday was the anniversary of my birth into this species and this world. Thanks to the hormones of both my young parents and the shuffling of ancient ancestral genes, I exist.
To call the reality of this chance awakening, beautiful and amazing is an understatement. And I intend to live each following orbit about our star more mindfully than the previous.
Yesterday evening, I peered across a beautiful candle lit table, set with linen napkins, silver eating utensils and gold-rimmed plates, at my lovely partner enjoying his cooked brussel sprouts and pesto penne. I observed him for a moment and remarked, "we are ridiculously spoiled creatures." It is common for me to verbally exclaim this same idea in differing words and many other instances. (I should also allow you to entertain the laughable image of my partner proceeding to react like a chimpanzee, in response to my comment, as he did). Yet, aside from a couple of my close friends, I never hear such observations remarked, otherwise. I would go as far as to claim that the vast majority of our species finds him or herself deeply entitled to this upper class of highly intelligent animal life. Divinely entitled- most commonly. And rather insulted to be categorized among animal at all. It is human tradition to tell our children that this world has been set into motion just for us. That what is here, on Earth, life and other material, is for our use, however we see fit. Here, I am chuckling at the thought of one of our primate cousins, sharing this same pretentious idea with his or her offspring, and the same of a bird, and perhaps an insect. Surely, there is a fair level of silliness to the idea, but more surely, these other Earth-born creatures are all biologically related to a common ancestor of ours. This is simply a scientific fact. So, here, aside from an intelligent, million-years-evolved processing instrument, we do stand on equal ground. Stumbling upon this thought has me reminded of a poem Sagan quoted in his work, The Varieties of Scientific Experience.
"Heaven" // Rupert Brooke
FISH (fly-replete, in depth of June,
Dawdling away their wat'ry noon)
Ponder deep wisdom, dark or clear,
Each secret fishy hope or fear.
Fish say, they have their Stream and Pond;
But is there anything Beyond?
Thus life cannot be ALL, they swear,
For how unpleasant, if it were.
One may not doubt that, somehow, good,
Shall come of Water and of Mud;
And, sure, the reverent eye must see
A purpose in Liquidity.
We darkly know, by Faith we cry;
The future is not Wholly Dry.
Mud unto mud!-Death eddies near-
Not here the appointed End, not here!
But somewhere, beyond Space and Time,
Is wetter water, slimier slime!
And there (they trust) there swimmeth One.
Who swam ere rivers were begun,
Immense, of fishy form and mind,
Squamous, omnipotent, and kind;
And under that almighty Fin,
The littlest fish may enter in.
Oh! never fly conceals a hook,
Fish say, in the Eternal Brook,
But more than mundane weeds are there,
And mud, celestially fair;
Fat caterpillars drift around,
And paradisal grubs are found;
Unfading moths, immortal flies,
And the worm that never dies.
And in that Heaven of all their wish,
There shall be no more land, say fish.
In finding this poem, among pages of Sagan's eloquently gathered thoughts, I felt a genuine feeling of comfort. And ultimately- hope. Optimism. I let out a laugh and shared the poem with my partner. It is becoming evermore often that I find myself in a bright, open room of familiar thought, while reading the ideas of humans that began thinking long before I even began existing. As much as I treasure the blurry sight of a fully rational-thinking humankind, I am not entirely regretful of existing as one among some few in this current century. Watching science make discovery after discovery as superstition begins the fight against what should be its very long and slow death, is a place in time to be noted. This is, still, just the very beginning of the noble battle against numerous millennia of praised illogical thinking, deeply interwoven into both the culture and society of our species. It should be our decedents, many centuries in the future that find themselves pondering how we could have ever brought ourselves to embrace thinking in such a fearful and intellectually preposterous form. That day is distant, but it must be out there if we are to progress to our full potential.
So, here is to our full potential.
As a species.
As an advanced happening of cosmic chemistry.
As the brief inhabitants,
of planet Earth.