A few nights ago, over pizza, I found myself debating with my brother-in-law about whether the world is a morally better place now than it was 1,000 years ago and that humans are an intelligent species (his stance), or if it’s a morally worse place that human beings have run into the ground because we’re such a stupid species that doesn’t learn from our mistakes (my stance).
He didn’t make too bad of a case. For instance, much of the world now acknowledges that slavery is immoral. We have (some) established methods for figuring out how to cure and prevent disease. We’ve developed governmental and legal protections to protect people against many of the worst crimes we’ve invented. Etc. Etc. Etc.
My case was pretty good, too. We can all agree that human beings are the only species who systematically destroys our own environment without caring that this very environment is necessary to our survival. We still can’t seem to stop ourselves from engaging in big wars that make big messes. Economic and social inequality in even the most “civilized” nations is painfully obvious and unjust. Etc. Etc. Etc.
The argument was bound to go nowhere, so eventually we acknowledged that we each had good points, and returned to our pizza. The conversation turned to ghosts, as it was Halloween Night, and one friend told us about the two times she’s seen ghosts.
I’ve thought a lot about the “thousand years ago” discussion, though. Could human beings really be a better, smarter bunch than I’d been thinking all these years?
Then today, perfect for a Sunday morning, I ran across this poem in a stack of stuff I’d been saving. Like my brother-in-law, Thomas R. Smith seems to have an unusual amount of faith in our world:
“Trust” by Thomas R. Smith
It’s like so many other things in life
to which you must say no or yes.
So you take your car to the new mechanic.
Sometimes the best thing to do is trust.
The package left with the disreputable-looking
clerk, the check gulped by the night deposit,
the envelope passed by dozens of strangers—
all show up at their intended destinations.
The theft that could have happened doesn’t.
Wind finally gets where it was going
through the snowy trees, and the river, even
when frozen, arrives at the right place.
And sometimes you sense how faithfully your life
is delivered, even though you can’t read the address.