Wednesday, July 26, 2006

and the answer is...

Sure there is. A really scared one paddling like crazy. (front right)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Time for Some Field Research...

For the next week I'll be out testing one of the essential hypothesis of faith:

"There's no such thing as an agnostic on a class V rapids."

Monday, July 03, 2006

Cockeyed Optimist

I’ve been hearing a lot of comments lately about the terrible state of The World Today. Every day, people are being murdered, children are going hungry, wars are smoldering, the environment is being ravaged. It looks like the human race is intent on going completely down the drain. The only question is what will kill us off first, war, famine, global warming or avian flue.

Those who read my blog know that I believe quite the opposite; that mankind is making huge (though painfully slow) improvements in equality, peaceful dispute resolution, and humanitarianism.

As humans, we are ever grouping ourselves into specific communities. These are concentric circles of interest. At the core is our own family unit. Beyond that is our friends, then perhaps our coreligionists, our fellow nationals, those who share our language and culture, etc.. To those closer to the center of our circle, we feel heightened empathy and trust and grant equality and respect. The farther out we go from our own group, there is a natural drop off in our level of interest and empathy, and an there is a corresponding increase in our level of mistrust, prejudice and hostility.

The story of our history is of the slow, back and forth plodding progress of ‘global inclusion’. In ancient days, groups seldom went beyond the close knit familial or tribal level. As time went on, these groups ultimately expanded to kingdoms and nations, and as religious ideas spread, they too played a role in defining our native groups.

To those who believe that we are regressing, or that we continue to be steeped in the same inhumane behavior of the ancient days, let’s take a good and honest look around. And let’s compare not with one or two thousand years ago, but with just two hundred years in our past. What did we have:

- Slavery throughout most of the world.
- Even in the few democratic nations, women did not vote.
- There was no such thing as a minimum wage or health insurance, etc.
- There was no Geneva Convention, League of Nations, or UN.

Moreover, it was completely mainstream to believe that men were superior to women, whites to blacks, Christians to Jews, etc.. Multitudes starved on the streets of all of the major cities of the world. The poor died without medical attention. No one sent aid to the less developed countries, the European world raided the third world as a matter of colonial right.

The fuel of hatred is isolation and ignorance. The antidote is information, communication and understanding. And our ability to even communicate with each other on a global scale is very, very young. We may have a long way to go, but look at how few years we have had the ability to meet, speak, read, and learn about each other.

- 400 years ago: No printing, no powered travel, no electronic communication
- 200 years ago: No powered ships or trains
- 150 years ago: No telephone or transcontinental telegraph
- 100 years ago: No radio
- 75 years ago: No television
- 50 years ago: No commercial transcontinental air travel
- 25 years ago: No internet
- 10 years ago: No blogs

We are very imperfect. But, in general, our misdeeds to our fellow man stem not out of sociopathic evil, or even from selfish callousness. It stems out of our ability to close our eyes to the needs of others – to the humanity of others. It stems from our preconceived notions about our differences, and from our lack of trust in each other. It stems from fear.

Humans, for whatever reason - spirituality, evolution, practicality - are inately good. They are empathic, they are altruistic, they care about each other. Many, many things interfere with our ablity to act on that native goodness.

We are far from perfect, but we are still young.