In recent months we have entered turbulent times on Planet Earth. Watching the television it all sounds very exciting and for sure it gives the media lots to talk about. The two key events which stands out for attention is the referendum vote in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union at some near-future date. The second is the election of a President in the United States of America, who arrives at that office with much controversy. Speaking to many, there is huge uncertainty about the future and the direction our civilisation will head next. In his 1942 publication 'Darkness and Light" the philosopher Olaf Stapledon described those two possible future as follows:
“Is it credible that our world should have two futures? I have seen them. Two entirely distinct futures lie before mankind, one dark, one bright; one the defeat of all man's hopes, the betrayal of all his ideals, the other their hard-won triumph.”
One year from now, the Earth would have gone around its orbit again, for the approximately 4.5 billionth time. The Sun will still rise and set. The ocean tides will continue to ebb and flow. The birds will migrate with the seasons. The universe will continue to grow in its extent. Your cup of coffee will still be ready for you in the morning. Gaining some perspective, is an act of humility before the storm.
How we handle these apparently turbulent times is up to us. How the European countries handle the negotiations on 'Brexit' and how the United States handles the election of its new President, is up to all those people involved. Just because the circumstances are controversial, this does not require that we respond in similar kind, or that we used heated words designed to hurt the character of another person or nation. For when we attack each other, we are also hurting ourselves. And although the majority of us may not be involved in the day to day decision making that surrounds such events, this does not allow ourselves to lower the standard of our conduct. Instead, we have a duty towards our fellow human kind to ameliorate our shared circumstances and be emollient. We are all protagonists in this great play, and we all have a role to perform as citizens of Planet Earth. You will never get another person to listen to your point of view by attempting to drag them kicking and screaming....or threatening them with actions. This doesn't mean we must acquiesce to the untoward which offends us. Instead, leadership by example, is what creates that hopeful space. All nations of the world, its governments and its people, East and West, North and South, should adopt such behaviour.
We can stir up the fires of discontent, division, and despair, or we can create the conditions of encouragement, unity, and hope. Whenever we write words in articles, blogs, facebook, twitter, or speak words in person, in speech or on television and radio, they have the power to belittle or influence other people for right or wrong, and thereby collectively contribute to one or another of those two futures that Stapledon spoke about. Which future do you want to live in? What role will you play during these turbulent times?
Turbulence is typically characterised by unsteady or even stormy conditions, a state of conflict and confusion. If you were on a ship, bound on a journey, and your ship entered very stormy conditions, what would you do? If a person takes action to try and improve the situation, the best way that 'they' know how to, yet makes mistakes, would you chastise them or encourage them to try a different approach, with education, inspiration and good intention in your heart?
Planet Earth is a ship, it is a living starship, at sea in the ocean of space, and we are its crew, all of us. It seems to me that to keep this ship steady in turbulent waters, our best hope is to adopt a state of calmness and serenity, as we seek to find wisdom and humility in ourselves, and to encourage it within those of our fellow species. And yes, it takes courage and patience not to give in to the taunting of the masses, but ultimately this is where true integrity is to be found as we seek to determine verisimilitude in a labyrinth of mass information, global events and political, economic, social-cultural and technological change.