Humankind — only two hours old

“…imagine that the earth—four thousand six hundred million years old—[were] a forty-six-year-old woman…. It had taken the whole of the Earth Woman’s life for the earth to become what it was. For the oceans to part. For the mountains to rise. The Earth Woman was eleven years old…when the first single-celled organisms appeared. The first animals, creatures like worms and jellyfish, appeared only when she was forty. She was over forty-five—just eight months ago—when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The whole of human civilization as we know it began only two hours ago in the Earth Woman’s life…. It was an awe-inspiring and humbling thought…that the whole of contemporary history, the World Wars, the War of Dreams, the Man on the Moon, science, literature, philosophy, the pursuit of knowledge—was no more than a blink of the Earth Woman’s eye.”        – Arundhati Roy, from The God of Small Things

I think about this quotation a lot. It truly is humbling. First of all, it puts the earth and our place on it into perspective. I have a feeling that if we as a people don’t stop our destruction of the earth, she’ll just boot us off and start all over again. She’s been here infinitely longer than humanity has been, and will likely be here long after we’re gone.

This quotation also brings me some small bit of comfort when I start thinking about the state of the world, with all its corruption, discord, conflict, intolerance, discrimination, oppression, violence, and war. I remind myself that humankind is just an infant, which is why people act infantile so much of the time. I remind myself of this when I think about the fact that people do not solve problems with grace, diplomacy, tact, compassion, and maturity, but with violence, vengeance, pettiness, pride, and jingoism.

The hatred, intolerance, and violence—will it end when humankind “grows up”? I wish I could live long enough to know the answer to this, but it won’t reveal itself until millions of years hence.

In the meantime, it’s a worthwhile pursuit for humanity to keep striving to be wise and mature beyond its years.

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