WHEN SOMETHING such as the recent Boston Marathon Massacre occurs it makes me think about Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Two hands reaching out and almost connecting, but not quite. God’s finger is stretched to the max trying to reach Adam and put some sense into mankind, while Adam’s half-assed attempt to reciprocate creates that incredible gap between the two hands. Thus, the human race, if only symbolically, is eternally separated from the better angels of its nature. So close and, yet, so very far away.
Humankind has been running a marathon since it descended from the trees in the savannas of Africa millions of years ago. H.G. Wells observed, “Civilization is a race between education and catastrophe.” And the finish line for this race, like that in Zeno’s famous paradox, sometimes seems to get impossibly further away — no matter how earnestly we try to reach the elusive goal of a civilized world.
From the moment, millions of years ago, when our first ancestors fashioned weapons with which to kill, to that fatal minute in a Boston street last week when two young men allegedly set down their holy pressure cookers filled with explosives, little of value seems to have changed in the evolution of human thought. Our species, on many levels, is apparently stuck somewhere in 2 million BCE. And running scared.
Smash. Bang. Boom. Kill. The fun just never stops.
Interestingly, a few of the more intelligent, less violent among us think this is all going to drastically change soon. Or else.
Futurist Ray Kurzweil, who spoke at the Smith Center in January, has predicted the imminent next stage of evolution — what he calls “the singularity.” Here, humans will organically bond with their machines, and those machine/humans will become self-evolving, allowing us to transcend “the biological limitations of our brains.” 2029 being the year when he thinks this will begin.
And cosmologist Stephen Hawking has said the human race is doomed due to its own devices, unless it gets off Earth and into outer space. Quickly.
“Our genetic code carries aggressive instincts. We won’t survive another 1,000 years (on) our fragile planet,” he has said.
Of course we currently don’t have the know-how to last indefinitely in space. But with Kurzweil’s promise of the exponential growth of nanotechnology (tiny machines that can turn humans, and machines, into god-like entities), maybe there is hope.
Humanity’s machines might venture forth to explore the Milky Way for a few million years and, farther, about 14 billion light years out, to find the edge of the known universe and gaze over that edge at a blank, starless cosmic canvas. Where our techno-offspring might reach out to touch and breathe life, god-like, into new universes. Perhaps by creating constellations of new stars in the shape of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, on the same day that two kooks allegedly triggered the Boston Marathon Massacre with pressure-cooker bombs, 21 similar bombs reportedly went off in Iraq, killing about 65 people.
And in 2004, in America, people voted to continue a war in Iraq they knew was morally wrong. Hence, America — a nation of, by and for the people — became a nation of war criminals. No better than a whole country of terrorists with a pressure cooker bomb in every hand.
Bang. Boom. Kill. The fun just never stops.
CHIP MOSHER is a simple classroom teacher.