Humans as Plague

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Some people say that humanity is like a plague or infestation. The analogy is: rats are to an overrun city as we are to the earth. Like rats, we move into an area, use up the resources, and then fight to the death over what’s left; or, (quoting Mr. Smith in the movie, “The Matrix”) like a virus we infect our host until it dies, then move on.

It’s true that many people, particularly in my country, the United States, try to fill their emptiness with possessions, food, wealth or whatever, thus demonstrating the power of human emptiness. (“Nature abhors a vacuum.”) But that is not the same as a plague.

Some say that other humans we encounter on our journey are angels put in our path to deliver a message or meaning. Whenever someone gets their coupon book out in the checkout line or smokes a cigarette where you cannot escape from it, they are an angel. Well, maybe.

As I was reading the poetry collection, “A Book of Luminous Things, An International Anthology of Poetry” (edited by Czeslaw Milosz, Harcourt Books, 1998), I noticed that some of the poems in the “Nature” section of the book characterize humans as alien to their world: killing for no reason, interrupting the placid existence of other creatures, and of course damaging the environment. Robinson Jeffers, for example, in his poem, “Carmel Point,” decries the development of his neighborhood on the California coast as a defacement of pristine natural beauty, and describes humanity as a tide that will ebb as it has flowed, leaving the beauty to emerge again. That is to say that humans will die off so that nature can thrive unhindered again.

I love nature. I am fascinated by the diverse creatures I encounter practically everywhere and the life-affirming tenacity of plants, and I love the beauty of natural landscapes. Whether it is a lush forest, a mucky wetland, a still pond or a stormy sea, when I am immersed in the natural environment I am brought to a place of peace and joy.

I love people. The infinite variation and remarkable similarities are intensely interesting, and the kinship I feel with fellow humans affirms my love of life. I find that most people have innate beauty and surprising insight. I find also that when I find something about another person repellent, it echoes something I am ashamed of in myself. I learn from people, and I am moved by people.

I think that the separation of humans from nature is an illusion. We are always finding that we have more in common with animals than we thought. We cannot exist apart from our environment. Like all other animals we breathe oxygen, drink water and eat food. We are born, we reproduce, we age and we die.

Yet the difference between human and animal is in the words, “I think.” The wise say that what we focus on, we become. This is not true of animals. They focus on food, reproduction and shelter, and they do not become these things. Well, sometimes they become food, I guess. Nevertheless it is said, if we focus upon the mountain, we become the mountain. Animals do not do this.

Our thinking has led us to seek out ways to ease our existence by drawing energy from the earth. Some people say we are drawing too much energy from the earth and that we will exhaust our supply someday. Our thinking has led us to extend the time we exist on this earth, and to increase the survival rate of our newborn children, and to guard ourselves from or cure ourselves of disease. Where nature would limit or end our time, we use our advanced brains to extend our time on Earth. Reasoning tells us we are placing an ever growing burden on the Earth with our numbers.

Rats and viruses do not think or imagine. They cannot chart trends and foresee problems. They can only react. We can think, and we must use our intellectual powers to foresee problems and find solutions. We are not an infection or infestation. We are a population that has the ability through collaboration and contemplation to avert future disaster.

A plague cannot do this. That is why humanity is not a plague.

We must use our ability to think to ensure that we do not damage the world by our thoughtlessness. “I think, therefore I am,” said Descartes. We must think so that we can continue to be.

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Comments 21 comments

Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

wow.. I am glad humanity is not a plague. this is very interesting and awesome..great read

I voted up

Debbie


Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 4 years ago from Northern California

Tom, you've put the putative population bomb into a balanced philosophical perspective. Bully for you! Voted up and interesting.

By the way, there's a variation on the Descartes quote:

I'm pink; therefore I'm Spam. :-)


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

Thank you, Deborah!

Thanks, Larry! Yes, it's easy to paint a grim picture in two colors, isn't it? But few things are ever purely black and white. Love the Spam quote :)


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 4 years ago from TEXAS

I'm what I call and 'optimistic realist' and a 'realistic optimist'.

I agree with what you have written. We have choices. It's a human specialty. We do not have to destroy our environment - and each other. Those are very poor choices. It's something of an illusion to think that we, as individuals, are helpless to stop it. EACH of us has a sphere of influence. Yours, as this hub illustrates, is for a more positive approach and influences others to think about what we are doing. There is no entity called mankind separate from each individual comprising it. If we relinquish our individual influence and give in to monstrous habits and thought-patterns, that becomes our contribution to the mess.

You always deliver good thoughts, Tom.

Hugs and thanks.


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 4 years ago from Stepping past clutter

"I find also that when I find something about another person repellent, it echoes something I am ashamed of in myself."

I find this as well, Tom. I try to look at it and determine what inside me has caused me to respond so intensely, though sometimes it is so overpowering and hidden and hard to admit/accept that I continue along my judgmental pathway until I can let it go, finally.

Thanks for this lovely hub. Your poetic words inspire something good inside of me.


TKs view profile image

TKs view 4 years ago from The Middle Path

Good hub Tom. I agree with a lot you've written. A couple things, I'm not quite sure about, but nonetheless, you got me thinking.

First, you write, "The wise say that what we focus on, we become. This is not true of animals. They focus on food, reproduction and shelter, and they do not become these things."

I think, what the animal focuses on, is the need for the things you've listed more than the things themselves. Given all they respond to is the primal need, they stay at a primal level, thus it would be true, they become what they focus on.

IF, we humans did evolve from pre-Neanderthal creatures, did we have souls then? In other words, were we self aware cavemen, or were we just like the animals? If so, when did we get over that bump to become that which we are?

To wander a bit further, are animals capable of making the same transition to be free thinking. As we meet more and more to our domesticated "pets" needs for food and shelter, will this provide them the luxury of time to develop a link to some sort of soul?

Or, are they, by design flat-out incapable of progressing?

Secondly, we think. Yes and it will take considerable thought to satisfy our human needs in a world with a rapidly expanding middle class that now has the ability not only to say "I need," but too also say, "I want." This is of course, more directed to countries that have large manufacturing centers and work forces. Unlike the U.S. where the middle class is disappearing as fast as a Brazilian rain forest.

But, I believe, even though we've "thought" our way into these planetary issues, it will take more than thought to get us out.

Adding, "I feel" to our daily vocabulary is vital.

One last thing. There are days at work where I could really use some of that, "person repellent," especially to use on my boss. Do you know where I could find some?

Thanks for the interesting read.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

Thanks so much, Nellieanna. Choice was the point of this article, a point which you chose to agree with. As we see, the article itself leaves plenty of room for choice :)

Storyyteller, what a lovely comment! I am honored and so happy that my article resonated with you.

It is said that emotions are the voice of the soul, TK. As such, we had better listen to it. Also I tend to listen harder to people who say, "I feel", as opposed to people who say, "I think," or especially, "I know."

I overstepped myself presuming to know the intellectual and emotional life of animals. When I observe animals, it is clear to me that they both think and feel. I believe that also that they are linked, spiritually, to us and everything else. Who's to say they cannot 'become the mountain.'

All thoughts are not created equal. I should have differentiated. The kind of thought that saves lives and planets is thought that arises from humility, equanimity, compassion, modesty, and a will to do right by the world we live in. But I agree with you. Feelings and emotions are very, very powerful - powerful enough to save a planet... I think :)


TKs view profile image

TKs view 4 years ago from The Middle Path

No need to step back from what you've written, Good Sir. You have spoken truth, so no need for "should". Should, conveys regret, a very powerful emotion that separates us from the mountain, we are.

Your thoughts, clearly come to you from that higher mind which is home to humility and the others you listed as well. Emotions are the rocket booster, when attached to such thoughts, do bring about change.

Thus, YOU thinking, is too linking, as believing, is too achieving and act, is too fact.

The planet is healed through you being well.

Have a wonderful night.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

And you, too. I am glad you visited and will return the favor. :)


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 4 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon

You said it completely right. I don't believe in global warming, cooling or climate change, but I'm right along with you in believing that we can and do affect our world for good or bad. We create beautiful things, and ugly things. More than that, you highlighted the symbiosis that exists between man and Earth, and man's uniqueness. We can live in harmony with nature, and we don't have to give up our humanity to do it.

I expected another mind opening, truth laden hub from you, but I am amazed at how easily you wove your point together - it's as if you tamed a male lion, drove the fear out of a sheep and made them both curl up and sleep peacefully together. This hub is as harmonious as its conclusion.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

Thank you very much, Alexander. I felt compelled to write this and very much enjoy all of the reactions to it.

I love your observation that the relationship between people and Earth is a kind of symbiosis in which both can (potentially) benefit. Thanks again!


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

As i read this very interesting topic, I found that we agree. We are the environment along with the animals. We should do everything we can to insure it will be here for the next generation. That's why it's so important to plant a tree, stop polluting our waterways, and i firmly believe that we should live in harmony with the animals, not kill them. ( My opinion ) Thank you for sharing with us...


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

Ruby, thank you for reading my work. I think that there are many good reasons for not killing animals, including environmental and health reasons, as well as moral.


Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 4 years ago from Northern California

Tom, I posted a link for this hub to free-association.net, a small social networking site where I hang out.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

That's great! Thank you.


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 4 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Tom, I find it fascinating that you value I feel above other statements! I have been ridiculed too often for expecting others to take me seriously when I use those words, as if I might think feelings have legitimacy.

Which, of course I do!!! the fact- crazed world can be harsh at times. And yet, feelings can also be manipulations...

Thank you for respecting the validity of feelings, and your discernment of true feelings, which I have experienced first hand.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

Some say that the emotions are the voice of the soul. I believe that emotions come from deep within. Fathoming thought - it doesn't have quite the same depth. Thanks so much, Storyteller!


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 4 years ago from Stepping past clutter

A smile expresses an emotion and I send it to you, dear friend! I hope you had a wonderful holiday with all your family home- I certainly did.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

Smiles back :) We had a nice time. Great to have time with family. We had a full house - including our eldest who came to dinner for the first night of Chanukah. Nice.


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 4 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Very nice!


dishia profile image

dishia 4 years ago from nigeria/ rivers state

thanks for a beautiful piece. i really appreciate your choice of words and your figure of speech. the underlining meaning is what counts.

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