Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Manifest Destiny

Please join me in a thought experiment I began during my morning walk. What if we are alone in the universe? What if Earth is the only celestial body in the entire cosmos that has evolved life?

Wouldn’t we want to make the most of this gift? Wouldn’t we want to make this the best possible world and make the best possible neighborhoods and communities and countries and institutions? Wouldn’t we want to be motivated to preserve life and biodiversity, to share wealth and opportunity, to create harmony and beauty?

The truth is, of course, that we long thought we were the only game in town, so to speak, yet managed to steer our way toward conflict, greed, malice, and environmental destruction. But that was in what we thought was a world of limited resources, in which we believed sharing meant losing what belonged to us or our tribe or our nation.

What if we believed in a world of unlimited resources, if not of the material kind, in the kind of ingenuity and imagination and compassion that indeed have improved the world? All those ambitions listed earlier have arisen because we wanted to make this the best possible world.

What if we wanted not only to “people” the universe, but “creature” the universe, introducing our biodiversity onto other habitable planets? Could this be our “manifest destiny”? God knows the phrase has been used to inspire far lesser goals.

I’m not talking colonization, imposing our life forms on other habitable planets to the detriment of native expressions of life. But rather, as in biblical prophecy, helping the wilderness bloom.

Just as we bring the best possible flowers to grandmother’s house, or serve the best possible cuisine to dinner guests, or find the best possible natural settings to show our children, we could bring our best possible selves to our calling to ensure life continues to spread and evolve.

This is the world and calling Jesus lived and proclaimed. This is the world “ruled” by our better angels, our best selves, our highest powers, our most gracious love, our greatest calling. It begins in our hearts, in our own transformation, as we live “as if” this commonwealth already exists. It takes practice, spiritual practice, beginning with a thought experiment such as this, a vision that prompts us to be on our best and kindest and most compassionate behavior.

I know this sounds like science fiction, and you may think I’ve lost it, but teleologically speaking, isn’t this more positively motivating than the apocalyptic or dystopian scenarios we’ve been handed by doomsayers, religious or otherwise?

Presumably Jesus knew little of science, evolution, or the cosmos. But he did know how to inspire the human heart. And he knew to change the world, we need to change our hearts.

As I said, this is just a thought experiment. What do you make of it?

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  1. Love the uplifting idea of thinking a "What if" vision. There is much creative optimism about solving our climate change problems..
    If we have the will & vision. People of faith must lead with the vision and bring our higher selves.

  2. After posting this, I realized that some readers thought I was talking about a universe without God, when I simply meant a universe with no other life forms, save those on earth. Though I think there are probably other life forms, I was contemplating our responsibility to populate the universe if there were not. And though I never intended to exclude God, this thought experiment works with and without God.