When I started college fifteen years ago I wished the world would change; I wish I had been more careful. On the eve of the 15th anniversary of 9/11, those wishes have manifested in the form of plights this planet has never before experienced. Droplets of water now struggle in our ocean of blood, oil and waste. Life would be simpler had I been less curious, less wishful and less hopeful of a better future. I would feel less responsible for the grim one at our shores.
Climate change (melting polar icecaps; rising sea levels; coastline erosion; irregular weather patterns; higher frequency of storms, droughts, forest fires, flashfloods, etc.), mass extinction (massive-scale extinction of mega-fauna and ecosystems – coral-reefs, elephants, lions, tigers, sharks, whales, stingrays, clownfish, bonobos, etc. – in countless habitats like the Great Barrier Reef, African savannahs, tropical rainforests, etc.), and geopolitical instability (European economic crisis; Brexit and all its attendant complications; the rise of the ‘Islamic State’ and a myriad revolutions in the Middle East; the resulting refugee crisis that shows no signs of slowing down and has already been called the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II; racial polarization and the resurgence of the radical far-right; corruption with impunity, suppression of human rights, abuse of power, etc.) only start the list of horrors in the making.
Whether humanity accepts its part in creating this apocalyptic existence notwithstanding, it must do everything possible to restore a semblance of balance; if for nothing else, then its own survival. Ironically, the perils that plague us sprang from novel ideas to enable our survival. In this journey to survive, we have manipulated every material resource available on our planet. And such would only be natural. But we have seldom left the ambit of ourselves. We have placed ourselves at the top of the proverbial food chain as a species, and in society have categorized and forced humanity to mimic arbitrary hierarchies that only exist in the realm of human ego. Nature does not work that way.
We exist within a conundrum of elemental stagnancy and movement. On one hand, though we constantly change, we do not fathom this incremental change because we cannot (or don’t have the patience to) consciously observe it. On the other hand, while the universe has never remained the same, its foundational building blocks remain unchanged. For example, oxygen will be oxygen till the end of time and iron will be iron whether inducing a star to explode or floating in our blood. The universe uses this change-paradox of absoluteness and relativity to evolve.
Billions of years of this process has produced the human being, an organism capable of realizing and understanding this duality. Whether predestined or by chance, it puts us at a pivotal place in the fabric of existence, instinctively compelling us to understand the universe through questions, answers and choices we make that cumulatively build societies, its status quos, and over time its institutionalized codicils of popular faith and governance. Over time that norm becomes second nature and popularity trends overshadow the fringes that do not fit the fold. This breeds fear, ignorance, and neglect, suffocating society under the weight of old habits. We cling to ‘normal’ from fear of the ununderstood.
At such times when normativity becomes stagnancy, new ideas usher in revolutions by detaching society from the bindings of its habits. They remind us that society would not exist without humanity; that we have constructed the very idols that mislead us. That we choose to accept the definitions of others, the ideals of others and the morals of others because we find comfort in the complacency of normativity rather than our instinctive actionable curiosity. In doing so we diminish our capacity to understand; to not just seek knowledge, but also wisdom that comes from labor and learning. Revolutions tear us away from the abyss of habit and hurl us into the unknown, under the guiding torch of past generations, to reach closer to the realization of the cosmic fundamental duality within us and within which we exist. To what end remains a mystery, but realizing this and striving to understand it has always been the trademark of revolutions and its revolutionaries.
We now live in such a time; at some point we will have to choose between complacency and the responsibility of survival; either death by old habits or change as naturally predisposed. The past fifteen years have changed humanity at a far more drastic pace than the first eighteen years of my life. I know now that the peace I felt at the Top of the World two weeks before 9/11 was the calm before the tempest. It haunts me; it taunts me, questioning my understanding. Though, I am beginning to understand the nature of duality; so I remain resolute in my dream of a better tomorrow.