Friday, August 12, 2011

An Open Letter to Humanity

Dear Humanity,

I'm really trying -- really, really trying not to get overwhelmed and turn my back on you. I mean, like every other thinker, I have flirted with the whole cabin-in-the-woods thing. I know that probably wouldn't make me happy, though, because I'm torn: I like people, but I am disgusted by humanity.

Every time a person sits alone in a studio or with his or her books, lab equipment or a pen and creates a thing of beauty or of goodwill, my heart fills with admiration and love for the human animal and its endeavors. But every time that thing of beauty or of good will gets handed to the masses, the masses find a way to tear it apart or corrupt it.

In short, the atom bomb was not really Oppenheimer's fault, was it? Muhammad and Jesus are not to blame for war, the Inquisition, persecution, hate, or terrorism, are they?

And art -- such wonders get spun at the hands of solitary geniuses, then we turn those wonders into cliche by merely sharing them -- we water them down until they become almost laughable because we want everyone, whether they are at the level of the geniuses or not, to swim in the waters of greatness. "To be or not to be," is an apartment number joke now. The Mona Lisa is so common a sight that it has become impotent. Beethoven's Fifth Symphony has been turned into a cartoon by the cartoons.

In a brick and steel kitchen, in the early morning hours, in the delicious warmth of the ovens, the baker -- eyes intent, hands clean, sure and diligent as they shape the bread into perfection -- takes his work out of the oven at the point of perfect balance between crust and softness, a thing of importance is created: life-sustaining and beautiful, as all art and science should be.

Then, his bread is shared. It is torn into pieces and passed around by the clutching hands of everyone, some hands wise and clean, some dirty and ignorant, some kind and dirty, some greedy and evil, some hungy and without morals at all. And, along the way, it is dropped in the dirt; infected with germs; devoured without appreciation -- even poisoned on purpose.

No, humanity. I am simply disgusted by you. But, humans, you make my heart ring like a wind-harp as you breeze through my life. When I think of the power of human will, strength and persistence; of the human quest for beauty and happiness; of the human heart, searching for its fulfillment and suffering for freedom, I fall so deeply in love, it gives me chills.

To be an individual human in a crowd isn't so easy. To be a crowd without becoming evil and destructive is nearly impossible.

I hear spoiled, worthless children rioting in the streets of Birmingham, bragging about having ruined the lives of local business people, explaining that they performed these atrocities to show that they "can do what [they] want" and I look again to the cabin and the woods and I feel the tides of community washing away the lonely, beautiful heart of human hope.

Humanity, I hate you, because I feel you drowning the humans I love.

With deep regret,



  1. Man is basically good,
    Men are basically doomed.


  2. Well, thanks for making my post worthless. Nah, I like that. Well done.

  3. Haha thanks, I was trying to do something witty. Turning a phrase is not my strong suit.


  4. Beautiful, and it's exactly what we as writers struggle with on a daily basis. But sometimes, when we're surrounded by lazy, ignorant, mean people, we can't help but think humanity is doomed. Plus, there's the whole Lord of the Flies scenario that rings a little too true. So, does community keep us together as humans or is it what makes our humanity fall apart?

  5. The Huffington Post quotes JG Ballard thus: 'For the sake of my children and grandchildren, I hope that the human talent for self-destruction can be successfully controlled, or at least channelled into productive forms, but I doubt it. I think we are moving into extremely volatile and dangerous times, as modern electronic technologies give mankind almost unlimited powers to play with its own psychopathology as a game.' It's not looking too hopeful.

  6. Alas, it is not hopeful, Z, as you say. It is dangerous when technology can hand celebrity-like status and worldwide exposure to fools and to the misguided. Sometimes I fear they can do even more damage than those who are evil. Still, I can't help but hope . . .

  7. Maddy -- Well, for me, it is always a quesiton of retreating inorder to hear and gain perspective. It all makes me think of the Mackay quotation I used a few posts ago: "Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one."

  8. "heal" and gain perspective, that is.