I think it’s safe to say that no one believes the state of our current society is anywhere close to being a utopian one à la George Zebrowski’s Macrolife (1979) or Thea Alexander’s 2150 AD (1976). Want to be instantly depressed and overwhelmed with feelings of panic and anxiety? Just turn on the news for a few minutes – global warming, overpopulation, a deepening recession, the real estate crisis, a seemingly endless stream of companies going out of business, more people losing their jobs, their houses, their future….
And then there’s the ever-present threat of terrorism, North Korea testing nukes, random acts of senseless brutality, swine flu, mad cow disease, flesh eating bacteria, Drew Peterson, the Caylee Anthony murder case, Paris Hilton’s newest BFF, Miss America’s breast implants, Celebrity Rehab, Rock of Love Bus with Bret Michaels…
Simply staying sane can seem overwhelming sometimes. But amidst all of the madness and depravity and general stupidity, there are moments of god-like transcendence: glorious, life changing experiences that momentarily obliterate all the evil from the world with its beatific glow and leave only goodness and love and light. Like witnessing the birth of a child.
Over the weekend, my wife delivered our second daughter and, moments after she was born, this baby – just seconds-old – opened her eyes and stared into my soul. Behind those tiny blue irises was nothing short of the collective hopes and dreams for the future of an entire civilization. Pure unadulterated potential. Limitless possibilities. Staring into those perfectly uncorrupted and unfathomably perceptive eyes reminded me of the conclusion of Arthur C. Clarke’s classic 1968 science fiction novel 2001: A Space Odyssey in which astronaut David Bowman’s strange encounter with the crystalline monoliths ends with his transformation into the immortal Star Child.
“Then he [The Star Child] waited, marshaling his thoughts and brooding over his still untested powers. For though he was master of the world, he was not quite sure what to do next. But he would think of something...”
Not unlike Bowman’s rebirth, the most fitting word to describe the moment a child enters the world is miraculous. And if you’ve read Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, you’ll know that our very existence is a miracle in and of itself:
“Not only have you been lucky enough to be attached since time immemorial to a favored evolutionary line, but you have also been extremely – make that miraculously – fortunate in your personal ancestry. Consider the fact that for 3.8 billion years, a period of time older than the Earth's mountains and rivers and oceans, everyone of your forbears on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded, or otherwise deflected from it's life quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result – eventually, astoundingly, and all to briefly – in you.”
So if the recent glut of bad news has negatively affected you in any way – or if the depravity of this world is starting to get you down – just remember how lucky you are to simply be alive! And just like the astronauts in Clarke’s 2001, our future – although it may seem bleak at times – is abounding with undiscovered wonders, endless possibilities for unexpected experiences of self-exploration, edification and enlightenment, and the knowledge that anything – absolutely anything – is possible.
Don’t believe me? Just look into the eyes of a newborn baby – or should I say the eyes of a Star Child…