The View from Here
by Jim Harris
I'm writing this on an airplane
en route from Philadelphia to Chicago. I'm always moved to write
when I fly because no matter how often I do it, I just can't seem
to take it for granted. It's kind of like being shot out of a
cannon and somehow landing safely. Apart from wonder at the sheer
mechanics of it all, I also feel as if I'm in a place that humans
are uniquely privileged to be.
I plaster my face to the little
window as we soar above towns, cities and dazzling natural formations
carved out over the centuries. I pretend I'm an intergalactic
traveler looking down at Earth. What is it with these humans?
If there's one word to describe them all, it's "orderly".
Seemingly endless systems of highways, power lines, and satellite
dishes peering up at the sky like hungry baby birds. People, materials
and information flowing in all directions, governed by agreed
upon rules and conventions. These humans may like to think that
they are free spirits, but they are more connected to and dependent
upon each other than any other earthly specie.
This interconnectedness is what
makes it possible for one exceptional person, like a Schweitzer
or a Gandhi, to have such an immediate and lasting effect on the
course of events. unfortunately it also gives the same power to
the agents of greed and prejudice. You can't legislate morality,
the saying goes, and you can't hard-wire it into people's brains
either, because it must constantly change with the times. Ultimately,
moral decisions must be made by the good old-fashioned hearts
and minds of the people. You've just got to have faith.
Judging by the view from here,
you'd think that the human world was a paradise of harmony and
cooperation. No borders, no barriers. You'd think that there was
plenty of prosperity and good will to go around.
There are other animals on the
planet too, of course, but their presence is not visibly apparent
from this height. They tend to come and go in relative obscurity
and leave their environment as they found it. Surely the wise
people who built these gleaming cities are caring enough to share
the land with their fellow creatures.
The sun is disappearing below
the horizon in a burst of golden rays against the black, starry
backdrop of space. The lights in the tiny houses below begin to
flicker on, one by one. I am reminded of the words of the crew
of Apollo 8 as they headed for the dark side of the moon on Christmas
eve 1968. "Good night to everyone on the good earth".