Oh the Humanity

15 03 2010

Watching PBS’s National Park Series recently, I was moved by the life and perspective of John Muir. Born in 1838, Muir was essential in the formation of Yosemite as a U.S. National Park. The documentary focused on the challenges faced by those (like Muir, future founder of the Sierra Club) who wanted Yosemite to be a protected space. Muir’s efforts are preserved in his letters and essays which illuminate his passion for the land. In addition to his musings on nature, John Muir noted that there are enough different kinds of people in this world to do all the good things you could think of (beautiful space preserved/conserved for the public’s benefit) and all the bad things imaginable (destruction of nature/consumption of land for private interests). Still, he persisted. And he sounded so damn peaceful about it.

One person’s beauty-on-earth can be another person’s high-dollar-dream. We the people are so varied – we shouldn’t be shocked to see our interests set against each other. And we shouldn’t be so quick to think that one interest is Right (though some interests/deeply held beliefs are more considerate than others).

This got me thinking about how his words didn’t shatter the earth at that moment – I’m hearing his words on a documentary in 2009 and I’m thinking – yeah, we still don’t get that evil and good not only exist within us all but exist despite our neat little boundaries. Somehow after his words, future generations were not smarter, better. I’m thinking about privilege. Borders weren’t done away with – racism could’ve been relegated to history books. There are enough good and bad people in the world? There are shitheads and sweethearts? Shitheads can be sweethearts? Sweethearts, shitheads? Nothing else matters, like, where you were born? Wait .. you’re telling me that .. wait … the world is complicated? Like I said, it got me thinking.

I’m looking at this on an individual level as well as a humans-as-one level. Humanity is complex.

There is no inherent purity swimming within humans or rancid bile boiling our blood. Just as there is no single idea that unites all feminine people/no single trait that connects all masculine people. A world of binaries is a world that is easily duped.

You know that eternal question we face at least once in our lives – are people inherently good or inherently evil? I’ve never bought it. I’ve tried to go there in my mind but entering into that simplistic world is difficult – perhaps more so without the proper religious background.
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