| Photo by Carsten Tolkmit via Wikimedia Commons
I was born in 1949. My peers and I have lived through the last half of the previous century of the last millennium and I just made it into the next one. I’m hoping I will live through the next half-century. That will make me a half and half centenarian. Given the explosion of new science in medicine, I have a pretty good chance. However, what I come to talk about is not how I may enjoy longevity and embark on wild geriatric exploits. More exciting, rather, is to witness how this new century will push the frontiers of human discovery.
In the first half of the last century, the world saw two major wars, the last of which almost decimated a great people, the Jews. Out of the dark shadows of the great wars, each time, a new order emerged and the clashes of ideologies continue to this day. Humanity picked up the broken pieces. War and all forms of conflict bring about the seed of change, for better or for worse. From the ashes of destruction, the by-products of human ingenuity to overcome adversity led to progress in science. Although we were always teetering on the verge of self-destruction, thank God, our civilization survived the last century of the millennium.
There are plenty of bright spots that buoy my hope, despite so much human suffering around us. From the fears generated by natural calamities, or the sufferings from man-made disasters, to the terror that man inflicts upon man through wars and other forms of oppression, it is hard to keep an optimistic outlook as to where the world is heading. It seems events in the last decade point to an apocalyptic dénouement for these dramatic developments. Even the institution of religion, which is supposed to temper the more savage side of man, is not only failing in its role, instead, some of its proponents often contribute to human suffering. We have not stopped killing each other in the name of God or some other deity or higher power be it an idea or an ideology.
“There are plenty of bright spots that buoy my hope, despite so much human suffering around us. From the fears generated by natural calamities, or the sufferings from man-made disasters, to the terror that man inflicts upon man through wars and other forms of oppression, it is hard to keep an optimistic outlook as to where the world is heading.”
In the midst of this frenetic search for justification as to why we should annihilate each other, there are those who labor to unlock the mysteries of life and the cosmos. There are a few ways by which people look for the elusive answer to what constitutes the ultimate truth or whatever you call it. Some go into an inward search for the answer, developing self-understanding in the hope that it will open the door to the ultimate truth about man. Others try to find themselves by caring and sacrificing for others through altruistic actions. A few try to develop and expand the science that can unravel the laws and workings of the cosmos, from embarking on the journey to decipher the beginnings of the universe to peering into the most subtle manifestations of matter. They scour the sky looking for Earth-like planets in distant stars or peek into the human brain searching for clues of what makes us tick. The secrets they have uncovered, so far, about some facts of life and the universe do not fail to elicit a deep sense of wonderment.
Think of this, for example, the elements and minerals that compose our human body, in each of us, are materials that once belonged to stars in the distant past. Our ability to think and sustain our consciousness is powered by the same elements. The chemicals in our brain and the elements that make up our body are no different from what are in the plants, in the soil, in our environment, and in the fabric of the universe. It is the unraveling of these great mysteries that gets me truly excited. Looking up at the sky on clear nights I am awestruck, for it is a beautiful universe that I am witnessing and experiencing. This wonderment is sufficient for me to forget my deepest fear, my greatest disappointment, and my most bitter conflict with other men.
“This is the greatest paradox of our time. Humanity seems to be at a crossroads between glory and self-annihilation. I pray that we choose the road to salvation. Whichever path we collectively choose, I am still glad that I live in this era and I would like to see where it leads us.”
The journey through spiritual discovery, the self-sacrifice in giving service to others, and the path of science all require a high degree of dedication and great labor. These are facts that give me a great deal of hope. Beneath our destructive inclinations is the seed of greatness that saves the day when it matters. Knowledge has exploded exponentially in many aspects of life propelled by scientific discoveries and new inventions. The human genome has been mapped and new science and technology have continued to shed light on how the human brain works, helping us to understand human behavior and how the human brain evolved. The science of genetics promises new cures for intractable diseases. Computer technology is offering limitless possibilities by enhancing man’s computational capabilities.
This web of technological developments has spawned advancements in various fields of science, thus providing us with tools to harness nature either for good or for bad. Alongside scientific progress in the field of medicine and human sciences are equally important advances in the hard sciences, which have provided us with new technology in space travel or weaponry, thereby enhancing man’s ability to explore space or deliver lethal destruction against “enemies.”
This is the greatest paradox of our time. Humanity seems to be at a crossroads between glory and self-annihilation. I pray that we choose the road to salvation. Whichever path we collectively choose, I am still glad that I live in this era and I would like to see where it leads us. What humanity has accomplished so far, I am grateful to be a witness and be part of. I’m truly grateful for what my limited senses can comprehend, my tiny brain can understand, of this vast universe that is continually unfolding before my very eyes.
Even with the billions of us inhabiting this planet, it feels so lonely to know that we are just a speck in the sea of endless flow of this majestic universe. I appreciate the knowledge and understanding, however incomplete, of the world around me. And for that, our time might as well be the greatest era in human civilization, especially when we realize that we are fundamentally one.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.