This Child Earth
The Ride Begins
For most parents there comes a time when they realize that their children aren’t children any more. For many of us that time is never more clear than the day we hand over the keys to the family car. We’ve watched them learn, maybe even took some time to teach them ourselves. We cheered when they passed their drivers test and finally received their very own driver’s license.
Inevitably the day comes when we have to allow them to reap the rewards of all that effort. We have to let them take the car out for a spin … without us. This is the time when, in no uncertain terms, we give them total and absolute responsibility for their life and the means to end it. We know better than they how serious this moment is. A lapse of concentration … a poor decision at the wrong time … and their life is over. For our kids it’s a thrilling experience. For us parents it’s a terrifying moment.
It’s a necessary step. One all parents must let their children take. We do it so they might begin to assume responsibility for their destiny. But, nevertheless, even if most of us don’t dwell on the possibilities, we know how tragic they can be. We also know that if and when the unthinkable happens and their life is put in danger by another motorist or their own inexperience, it will be at a time when we are unable to help or protect them.
We hope that the odds are the same as they were for us. We pray that they learn quickly and suffer no more than the routine fender-bender that almost all of us have at least once in our driving experience. We hope they live through it, learn from it, and become safe drivers who learn to use the power of the machine to benefit their lives instead of end them. And, for most of us, that’s the way it goes.
But for some kids it doesn’t. Maybe the car they have is too powerful for their level of experience. A dare or challenge, coupled with youthful swagger and the sense of invulnerability common in kids that age, come together and suddenly, the machine that they should control gets away from them and takes them in a direction they didn’t intend to go; often with tragic and fatal consequences.
When I think about the future and what it might hold for us as a species, I step back and try to look at the world and all its societies and cultures, not as a collection of different peoples, but as a whole. When I do, this is how the world looks to me. It looks like that young kid, the teenager, holding the keys to the car.
This child, Earth, has come to the point where it has the keys to the car that will take it into its future. If it cannot get itself together and take responsibility for how it will use this power and learn how to control it, I fear that a crash, both severe and fatal to itself and its rightful destiny, is inevitable.
For the first time in the history of man we possess the power to literally destroy ourselves and the planet we live on. War is no longer a fear or threat to the earth. The earth’s peoples are what they will be. No one country has the capability to conquer the rest of the nations. The major powers are too strong and are beyond the fear of being conquered. The result of any such attempt would not be war, but the annihilation of the earth itself.
We need no longer fear the wrath of God for, like gods, we are capable of inflicting the type of destruction on ourselves that would make the flood of Noah look like a spring rain.
I don’t believe in any formal or popular concept of God. I have no need for one. I don’t believe that there is some creator who watches over us with some secret and ulterior motive for our being. The stories of God, no matter who’s God, are too full of vengeance, retribution, judgment and destruction for me. All concepts of God show me that he is too much like men to be anything but a reflection of ourselves.
But for a lot of us, God is who we look to, to protect us and take care of us. He fills our need, like the need of a child, to believe in a father figure. Someone who, as we grew, was always ready to step in and help us understand that which was often beyond our experience. We need to believe that God is watching over us. That he will keep us from our own folly and keep us from going astray.
So, while we wait for God to show us the way, we act as careless children do when dad is not around. We pollute our air and water with little thought of the consequences and how it will affect our children and our children’s children. With no good reason or purpose and no real threat we continue to develop nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction that will never be used for defense. They lay in wait for the hands of the madman who will use them in offense to begin an era of terror that will preclude the end of the world as we know it.
Like adolescents, who feel that death is something that happens only to the sick and old, like children who have yet to feel the pain of the unexpected and irretrievable loss of something or someone that they love, we continue to take dares and chances oblivious to the possibilities of tragedy.
Our past wars have left scars. But they are wounds long healed, whose origins are blurred by time. Having forgotten what the fight was about and knowing only that we got over the hurt, we are always ready to make the same mistakes again. Thinking each time we will get it right this time. All the while we count on God to step in eventually to break up the fight or heal the hurt before any lasting or life threatening harm is done.
But when our children get behind the wheel of the car alone and drive out of the driveway and into their future they are finally beyond our help. It’s up to them to drive safely or suffer the consequences. Dad or mom can’t come to their aid if they make a mistake. Their fate is in their own hands. They are truly on their own and responsible for themselves.
This child, Earth, is at that point in its growth. We, the people who call this planet home, have to make the decisions that will determine the future of ourselves and our generations to come. There is no God to save us from ourselves. We can’t waste time and resources in the irresponsible manner that we have in the past and count on God to bail us out. We cannot continue to pervert the technological advances of science into means of destruction. We must stop thinking that they will always be under the control of responsible leaders who would never use them in any way other than to defend.
If there is a god, he has raised us and has done his best to teach us that we are our brother’s keeper. He has, through his priests and books and revelations tried to teach us what we need to know so that when we inherit the earth we will use it wisely in our youth. That we will not use the power he has given us in such a way as to destroy ourselves.
We all share a common destiny. The future of each man is the future of all men and the future of humankind is finally our own responsibility. We are beyond the help of God. We can blame no one but ourselves if that future crashes into oblivion. We are no longer the children of the earth. We are its passengers and pilots.
The car we ride in is more powerful than anything we’ve ever known. We have the keys. We have left the safety of our home and driveway. We are rushing headlong into our future at speeds we never imagined. Traveling on strange roads with nervous hands on the wheel to a destination unknown to any of us.
We are leaving behind both God and our parents. We are traveling into a future where we are beyond their help. Our lives and our destiny are in our own hands.
The ride has begun.
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