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MUSINGS
ON MANKIND

 

MAY 03, 2020

( Modified 2022 )

 

JIM MCCUTCHON 

         As I write these words, the nation and the world are gripped in a struggle against a virus that knows no boundaries. It began in China, but that is irrelevant now. It has enveloped the entire world due to travel of a kind that was unimaginable when our nation was founded in 1776. The 246 years of the existence of this nation are less than a blink of an eye in comparison to the 13 or 14 billion years of the planet on which we live and travel. So, it may be worthwhile to view our existence and our nation and our priorities from afar to gain a clearer perspective.

 

         I considered using the metaphor of a man in a satellite orbiting the earth. Some astronauts have done that and reported that they gained a new appreciation of our interconnectedness by noticing that they observed no boundaries. The earth, viewed from their perch high above, was undivided. But, the astronaut, by virtue of being human, has a perspective limited by time. He is human, and he sees what he sees in the present time.

 

         Perhaps a historian might be better. He or she looks at the past as a baseline to judge the present. Historians have done that, and their observations have great merit. As has been said by John F. Kennedy and others, “Those who are ignorant of the past are condemned to repeat it.”

 

         Still not satisfied, I looked to scientists. Some of those experts calculated the age of the earth. Others documented the chemistry and the laws of physics. Surely, they had a broader and more encompassing opinion on the nature of mankind. Among the scientists, I found a paleontologist, a French Jesuit priest, a member of the French Academy and a pariah in his own religious denomination for views that did not coincide with established doctrine. Does Galileo come to mind? Exiled to China and forbidden to publish his writings, this priest became famous for having a large role in a major archeologic discovery, Peking Man.

 

         I read his book, “The Phenomenon of Man”, published after he died, and it occurred to me that he was still not the observer that I was looking for. He had similar limitations as all the others I had considered. The best observer had to be so far above the earth that he was not limited by time and space. He had to be present from the beginning of the universe and able to see the unfolding of both matter and spirit. That had to be God.

 

         So, how does God look at Mankind? Doesn’t God smile at the way we choose petty differences between peoples and use those differences to make war on one another? Well, maybe not smile; frown would be better.

 

         Teilhard’s book is a difficult read, but it was, to me at least, an epiphany. He noted that the astrophysicists had described the origin of the universe as a cloud of hydrogen atoms, and he traced the development of that primitive beginning to arrive at the present time. I felt that he had laid out God’s Plan for us to see. Here, in brief, is what he described.

 

         Hydrogen atoms evolved over eons into more complex atoms until they were all lined up like soldiers in ranks as described by Dmitri Mendeleev in his Periodic Table that hangs on the wall of most chemistry classrooms. I had marveled at that Table but had never realized that the evolution of atoms stopped there. (Until men made new atoms in labs.) Why? Well, maybe because the atoms were combining to form molecules which then began evolving into larger and more complex forms until molecules were comprised of about a million atoms. Then they too stopped evolving as life forms began to appear. All of the preceding steps have been laid out by scientists in various fields. I take their findings as probable fact because I have no way to verify or refute them.

 

         But we don’t need those “facts” when we have life forms that are more easily studied. What do we find? The same evolutionary pattern continues, from simple to complex and from small to large. It is worth noting here that the individual units, the atoms, and the molecules do not lose their individuality even as they become an integral part of the larger unit. Sodium atoms are still sodium atoms, and chlorine atoms are still chlorine atoms within sodium chloride. They can and do leave that union under certain conditions to join other atoms. That happens in humans too. We need only consider marriage.

 

         We come now to Man. Our species started out in a simple way as usual, one man and one woman with their offspring, a nuclear family. Now watch. What we observe is what has been called psychosocial evolution. Nuclear families joined with each other to form tribes. When primitive farming replaced hunter/gathering, villages became necessary. These grew to cities which grew and became powerful. Rome, Athens, Sparta and others were not nations, but they became nations as they united with other cities. In our own country, we began as individual colonies which became states. The states joined together to become the United States. Europe has done a similar thing. Man’s first attempt at world union was the League of Nations, formed after World War I. Part of the pattern of progress was to take two steps forward and one back. It happened here and resulted in the Civil War. It happened in Europe. The League of Nations fell apart, but we are trying again with the United Nations.

 

         What does that tell us about our current situation? How should that influence our views on nationhood? How should that shade our perceptions of “others”? For me, I have both a love of my country and a love of my fellow man, and I look forward to a coming together of all men into a union freely chosen by each individual and each nation, a union in which individuality is not lost. Will it happen in my lifetime? No. Will there be individuals and nations that become extinct as has happened in animal life? Maybe. Even probably. Does that change my choices? No. 

 

         At this time, which is now 2022, I choose to be a citizen of Corpus Christi in the State of Texas in the United States of America in an alliance called NATO in the United Nations. I also subscribe to the belief that all humans are children of God and that we are all loved by God who brought us into existence and sustains us in our existence. Every religion and some non-religious entities have “Love your neighbor as yourself” as a basis of a code of behavior. I choose to try my best to live by that code.   

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