Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cheating Death, Cheating Life

Last night I got home from school at eleven and found a red-eyed, sniffling Emerson waiting for me at the front door. Apparently he had been crying for me for the last ten minutes, so I bent down to give him a kiss and listened to the string of babble that was the story of his evening. Then he wrapped his body around me in a koala hug and I carried him upstairs to bed.

After we giggled our way through a couple of books, I turned off the lights and snuggled in (we always stay in his bed until he falls asleep). As I lay there - listening to his breath get slower and feeling his cold feet poke around for a warm spot in the crook of my knees - I couldn't stop the stream of thoughts rolling through my head.

I thought about the NPR story I heard on a man who successfully predicted many of the major modern technological advances (such as the internet) before they happened. His prediction for our future now is that by 2045, humans will have merged with their technology and we will likely be able to overcome death itself. A lot of this prediction is based on computers so small they can go inside our brains and even blood streams, which - according to him - we are not far from right now.

I thought about the class on ending oppression I had just been in - especially the image of my teacher with his arms stretched out in a circle as he said, "This is the pie. When you get a raise at work, you praise God. But in order for you to have more of the pie, someone else has to have less. Your wealth is putting poor people in an early grave, do you think that's what God wants? How far are you willing to go to keep the poor from heading to early graves?"

(And keep in mind this is at the conservative ecumenical seminary in Detroit, not my liberal school in Chicago.)

I thought about the book I was reading on the environment. Even though it was written 10 years ago, it warns of the current ecological crisis and the disastrous results of waiting too long to make changes to save the ecosystem. I wonder if the author has keeled over from a coronary after witnessing what's unfolded in the 10 years since he published this book?

When I think about all these things, I can't help but feel humanity is like a ball catapulted into the air. In the history of the world as we currently know it, our existence has been short and our rise fast. And like a ball, we seem to be gathering speed with time. But now we are nearing the end of the arc, we are about to reach impact. What I don't know is whether that impact will be in the form of a positive, peaceful revolution of sorts, or something...catastrophic.

I am no philosopher by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm struggling with these ideas and feelings because laying in the blue glow of a toddler's nightlight, watching his dinosaur pajamas softly rise and fall, I feel completely responsible for bringing him into this world. I feel completely responsible for ensuring I did everything I could to create a future worthy of him and his brother...and every other child in the world who has parents watching them sleep and worrying about their future.

And yet I don't know what to do. I do things in fits and starts...I get motivated, inspired, energized...then I get discouraged, lazy, complacent.

Right now I am struggling to stay somewhere around the energized part of this cycle, which means I am being extremely annoying and self-righteous to everyone around me. Hopefully they will be patient with me and try to see what I see:

A tiny hand wrapped around my one finger. Holding on tightly....expecting.
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emnemily said...

You write so beautifully. You made me cry a bit.

I heard the same story on NPR, as I am addicted to it. A subsequent story followed up with Intel, of all companies. Apparently they are working on a release of microchips with information on 1-2 nanometers of space. I believe he described a nanometer as "slightly larger than the width of an atom". Scary to think that these could be used right now, and thinking that in 30-35 years, the guy making predictions could be exactly right.

cottontales said...

Okay, so the whole cyber thing is a little scary. But.. when I think that one day this technology may help my little guy communicate more functionally, or help someone with spinal cord injury walk. I am all for it.