On the Edge of a Galaxy
Our planet Earth orbits a star we call the sun, which is only one of 100 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, and there are billions of other galaxies. Earth and the other eight planets that comprise our solar system are traveling at great speed within the mostly empty expanse of space. And yet this is the only known home of intelligent life. No other intelligent species has contacted our small planet, even though some cosmologists believe that intelligent life is not uncommon and that other intelligent species might be millions of years in advance of us. Still, there has been no contact from other intelligent species, and itís possible that none exist. At any rate, we seem to be extraordinarily rare in an incomprehensibly huge expanse of space. It is possible that we are unique within this galaxy and this universe. We have an overwhelming duty to survive and grow and to provide a future for millennia of generations to come.
And this brings us to the whole issue of human intelligence. We must never diminish the phenomenon of intelligence. Yes, condemn it when it commits barbarous acts and punish it when guilty of wrongdoing, but savor and understand just how wondrous it truly is. One way to focus on this is to take a walk for a few blocks in the downtown area of any city and make a list of what you see.
Your list will include buildings made of steel, concrete, wood, glass, and paint, and inside you will find all kinds of fabrics in the chairs, tables, and sofas, as well as electric lighting and so on. On the street you will see automobiles of all types, buses, perhaps trolley cars, and you may feel vibrations of an underground subway. In addition you will see all kinds of stores and restaurants and people dressed in an amazing variety of fabrics and designs.
There is much more to put on your list, and when you have finished you may think that your list is just a group of things. But what you have actually seen on your short journey, everywhere you looked and every object you saw, was intelligence. Every physical item was a product of human intelligence. A very short time ago, in geological terms, the same area of the city was just trees, vegetation, rocks, and soil.
But from this landscape the human mind extracted materials, from above and below the surface, from trees and vegetation, and with tremendous skill produced everything that makes up a city, from the buildings and everything in them to the sidewalks you traveled on your journey. It took millennia to acquire this store of creative knowledge, although a great deal of it, particularly the more complex aspects such as telecommunications and transportation, came within the last one hundred years.
The purpose of your walk through the city was to experience the creativity of the human mind, and perhaps this is the most amazing phenomenon in the universeóan intelligence that is aware of its own existence and acts on it, and to an amazing degree, acts knowingly upon the universe itself. We cannot waste this gift or continue to misuse it in the brutal folly of war and violence or environmental ruin. We must continue to utilize the best, the most noble of this great intelligence to accumulate more knowledge and greater understanding of our place in the vast scheme of things, and, not least, better treatment and respect for each other and respect for life itself.