It seems that humankind has gotten angrier in recent times. Our species has never been wealthier, healthier and safer from all the scourges that once plagued our forebears. Many of us live free of fear from the majority of diseases that once claimed the lives of those we held closest, as well as our own. More of us live without fear of violence, of war, of strife. In short, we have never had it so good. We are, in many ways, blessed to be alive at this moment in time – and this becomes all too clear when we look through the lens of history.
Yet, we seem to not be getting along with each other as well as we used to. We have become remarkably skilled at finding ways to disagree, to dispute and to hate. It is not just bizarre that in these peachy conditions we find ourselves so angry and divided, it is also sad. In the place of harmony and togetherness we often seem to choose the reverse. We scratch an itch when our tribe prevails over someone else’s with whom we disagree.
When reading this, one might say that if we really look at the history of our species, we get along better than ever before. A smaller proportion of humans die from violence than ever have in our history, charitable giving has never been greater and more people are allowed to express their religiosity, intellect and sexuality than ever before. All of this is true and should be celebrated more so than it is.
It is both perplexing and saddening that we might feel less happy than we perhaps should, given how serene our lives look from a bird’s eye view.
Our species has achieved wonderful things in its short and turbulent history. Yes there is crushing injustice, desperate poverty and wracking despair in the face of disasters that still besiege us. However, consider the competition, consider how it used to be thousands of years ago.
It is estimated that at one point, around 60,000 years ago, the human population plummeted to just 20,000 after a series of climactic disasters. 20,000 of us left, seeking solace and shelter in a hostile world of barren cold and seething heat. Once we consider this brink from which we have returned, I believe we can look at one another with greater empathy. Ultimately, we are the descendants of these 20,000 hearty humans that defied every Earth-bound challenge thrown at them.
We are still those same animals today. Great apes, scurrying around, lost in the frenzy of day to day life on our tiny blue dot planet. How unreasonable all this noise seems when we look at ourselves from afar, in both time and space.
We all share this beautiful but often cruel planet, and we all share the short gift of time we have on it. When we realise that there are more and better reasons to share this gift than to fester in rage because of the divisions that have emerged out of it, I believe we can lead happier and more fulfilling lives.
We all occupy our own tiny place in time and space in this life, and once our time is up, we hand on the baton to those whose turn has arrived. As we look back at our greatest ancestors with a oneness, we do also to those who come after us. Surely, we can all learn to look at those around us as brothers and sisters. Surely, we can learn to love each other in this time of relative bounty and of peace.
In this we can hope that when our fleeting moments are all used up, and it is someone else’s time to take the baton, we know that we lived full of love for each other, and we celebrated this wonderful gift that we have been given – the gift we call life.