Help each other, don’t hurt each otherBy THOMAS HOWARD,
There have been two traffic fatalities in Newton County in as many weeks, and while that does not compare to metropolitan areas such as Jackson or Atlanta, it should still serve as a stark reminder of how quickly lives can change.
This weekend I spent some time reflecting on a thought experiment I was introduced to several years ago. In an effort to bring the expanse of geologic time into perspective, scientists compressed the hundreds of millions of years of earth’s history into a single year. Humans, the prehistoric, poking-each-other-with-pointy-sticks kind, made their appearance on December 31, the last day of the year.
From the outside looking in, our species hasn’t been around very long. That begs the question, if all of humanity can be compressed into just a few hours, what would a single person’s lifespan look like? Would we be here an hour? A minute? Just a few seconds?
Questions like that remind me of a debate I witnessed growing up. Two deacons in my parents’ church were discussing the creation story told in Genesis, which says God created everything in seven days. One deacon said the seven days was exactly that, seven 24-hour periods, one week. The other deacon claimed God did not measure time the way we do. He said the seven days in Genesis could have been thousands, even millions of years.
I never found out who won that debate, but I think about it from time to time. Either way, the point is clear: humans are the new kids on the block.
Before someone refers me to counselling – I’ve been, thank you – let me explain why I find human mortality so fascinating. Look out the window! Look at what humanity has accomplished in the such a short time!
On those scientists’ calendar, we’ve been here less than a day, but in those hours we’ve explored space, discovered the basic building blocks of the universe, deciphered our genetic makeup, cured disease, and as horrible as it is, we’ve changed the topography and climate of the earth itself. For a species that lives only a few seconds, I think it’s pretty impressive we’ve managed to alter a planet.
Across the world, different cultures, faiths and religions have been developed to explain why we’re here, what our purpose is and what happens next. We wage wars, killing thousands of our fellow humans over who has the correct idea. We set rules about what we can do, what we can’t do, who we can love, what clothes to wear, what bathroom to use.
I don’t know which culture or religion has it right, and I’m not vain enough to think I could solve millenia of theological debate in 600 words or less. However, having read the Bible, the Quran and the Vedas, I’ll leave you with this: all three holy books command believers to be kind, to forgive and to love their fellow man.
I’ve been trying to do a better job of that myself, recently, and I encourage you all to join me. Between politics, social media and trash tv, there’s plenty of drama and arguments to keep us all satisfied, so instead of making more, let’s use our short time here to support our neighbors and make our time here the best time it can be.
Thomas is the managing editor of the Newton County Appeal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org