- Everything that exists anywhere
- All of your experiences that determine how things appear to you
- People in general; especially a distinctive group of people with some shared interest
- The 3rd planet from the sun; the planet we live on
- The concerns of this life as distinguished from heaven and the afterlife
As I was looking up at the millions of stars in the sky the other night, I unfortunately pondered the age old question, “I wonder where we are?” It may seem a strange question, but this is one which all of us want to know the answer to.
We all know we live on earth (the name we have given this spinning mass), but where are we?
Scientists have shown we are the third planet from the sun, and we are surrounded by galaxies, stars, and planets. For many years it was believed that the earth was flat, but it was then proved to be round. That means that if we live in the northern hemisphere, the people in the southern hemisphere live below us, or do they live above us? As space is potentially infinite we cannot say with any authority if there is an end, and we do not know which way is left, right, top or bottom. All we can say is that the earth moves around the sun and spins on an imaginary axis held in place by gravity, and as that is the limit of my knowledge, I will not try to impress you further with my science!
So for now, we will all just have to accept that we are in something called “space” (because that’s what it is, a space), and we are not able to put a physical location it. This has troubled the greatest minds who have ever lived (including some of yours I imagine), because we cannot understand the concept of space. If it was created in a big bang, surely it had to be in a physical place? How could something be created out of nothing? If there was nothing before, what or who created something?
Needless to say, there are many people dedicating their lives to finding out more about our extraordinary planet, the space that surrounds us, and the origins of life; but for now, I would like to talk to you about something all together less scientific.
When I looked up at the stars the other night, I suddenly began to feel very small. The world I knew seemed, well, insignificant. I started to think about my life honestly, and what I had done, about what I used to believe was important and I came up with a short list.
- Having fun
- Going on holiday
- Having nice things
- Earning lots of money
- Having attractive girlfriends
Shallow? Unthinking? Maybe, but for my age group and peer group these were what was important at the time. Can you come up with a short list of what you used to believe to be important in your life? Do it now if you can. I noticed that the things that were important to me were just enjoyment and acquisition of possessions. How many of you have similar things in your lists? I then wrote a new list of what is important to me now and compared it to the old one. I was astounded by the change.
- To make a positive difference to the earth, and its inhabitants
- To learn more about myself
- To learn more about the world, and the universe
- To help people understand
When I finished writing, I realised that somewhere along the line, I had recognised that there was a lot more to life than just my pleasure. Write a new list for yourself and see if anything has changed recently.
Every day on the news, we see video from some poor country around the globe. Great famines, floods, wars, corruption, or murders, and we think “that’s just terrible,” and may send a few pounds to a disaster relief campaign, or just shake our heads at “the state of the world;” but then we turn over to a nice sitcom, have a coffee, and carry on with our own lives.
“It’s a shame,” you say, “but what can I do?”
We see it as something so far removed from our own lives, that although we are sorry it happened, we are glad it doesn’t affect us. So, we are interested, but only as voyeurs, not as people deeply concerned for the rest of our fellow humans on this small planet.
When I think of the stars I watched the other night, and look at the images of earth from outer space, I realise it is only by looking at something bigger than your pleasure, your house, your street, your town, your city, your county, or your country, that you can really start to appreciate what the world is.
The magic, this amazing planet, the life, the beauty, the possibilities.
Now think of the other planets you see pictures of – the mass of swirling gases, the grey rock, the planets with no life on them, the freezing and boiling temperatures, storms covering the entire planets… uninhabitable… empty. Now think of the picture of earth again. The blue of the oceans, the greens of the fields, the browns of the deserts, the white of the clouds, and tell me where we live isn’t the most perfect place in the entire galaxy!
Some people obviously don’t think that the world is perfect, because they constantly want to destroy it, through wars, pollution, and the constant mining of resources. Perhaps some people haven’t looked up at the stars recently, perhaps they haven’t talked to the scientists, because if they did, they would realise we’ve got nowhere else to go.
Let’s face it, there isn’t anywhere like the earth that we know, and if we found somewhere, there would be no way to get six billion people there. Maybe the global leaders have found a new planet, but you can be sure there’d be no room for us on the plane!
It’s interesting to note that the same leaders who have developed and produced nuclear weapons which have the power to destroy everybody, and everything on this planet, have also developed nice nuclear fallout bunkers, where they can live out the rest of their days happily, whilst everyone else is dead, or sick from radiation poisoning. Still, at least they killed their enemy.
So the next time you get a chance, look at a picture of earth on the internet, or in the library, and take time to just stand and stare at the stars one night, and just imagine how envious someone looking at the earth may feel. Everything in the world is perfect. The atmosphere is perfect. The oxygen is perfect. The animals, birds, and indeed all living creatures that share this planet are perfect. As humans we are perfect.
The only imperfection is our thinking
I can’t understand what happened to us. We stand today as the most intelligent species on the planet, but after several million years of evolution, we still can’t seem to get it right. Instead of using our massive brain capacity for the good of the planet and the benefit of our fellow inhabitants, we use it for greed, for power, for destruction, and for violence.
In fact, we are no better than we were a million years ago. We are still fighting over territory, women, food and water in much the same way we were when we started the long process of evolving all that time ago. Maybe we don’t appreciate what we’ve got here on earth; maybe because we are only here for a short time we don’t care; or maybe it will take another million years of evolution to get our thinking straight. Maybe the future inhabitants of earth will look back on this period in much the same way as we have at the cavemen – as savages; As humans only in name.
Perhaps we will be considered savage in our treatment of each other, our mistreatment of the animals, and the planet we live on. Perhaps the future inhabitants of earth will think themselves lucky that the planet wasn’t destroyed, or maybe there won’t be a planet left for them.
Maybe we will have destroyed it, either by war, recklessness or greed. Imagine that, our great earth lying dead. A giant mass spinning in space with the oceans destroyed, the atmosphere so hostile no life can exist; life as we know it, wiped out, extinct. For what? Because one man wants to get rich so he cuts down a rainforest, or because we can’t walk anywhere, so we take the car, or because one man hates another because of his nationality, or doesn’t agree with another’s belief?
Imagine yourself as the visitor from another planet again now. Imagine sitting in your spacecraft above the earth, watching how we act, seeing what we care about, observing how we think. What would your opinion of us be? An advanced civilisation? Your forefathers made a report on the earth five thousand years ago. How has it changed?
A society in an advanced state of social development (e.g. with complex legal and political and religious organizations)
Report on earth 2006
Still fighting over religion and existence of god.
Still fighting over land.
Still hostile to other groups from other areas of the planet.
Still as violent as ever.
Have invented transportation that is causing massive pollution.
Are using up resources at an extraordinary rate.
Have invented paper money – power and greed on a global scale.
Although food and water abundant, many millions starving to death.
Report conclusion: Do not visit for another 5000 years
We may have advanced in many ways in the last 5000 years, but what hasn’t changed is our thinking. We may call ourselves civilised, with all our culture, and technology, such as opera, ballet, art, poetry, global agriculture, planes, skyscrapers and computer games. But we still haven’t learned to show empathy, kindness and respect to each other; let alone care for the animals and the planet.
Look up at the stars tonight, and remember, that although we don’t know precisely where we are in the universe, how the universe was created, or if we are indeed alone in space; there are six billion people here, plus all the billions of animals, birds, fish, insects, and reptiles to keep us company. We need to take care of them first. Starting right now.
Take your list of what you believe is important and see if the earth is on there. It didn’t use to be on mine, but it is now.
by alan macmillan orr
‘the natural mind – waking up’