Awareness is the ability to sense what is happening in the surrounding. In the animal world, awareness is crucial to survival. It helps the animal to evade predators while looking for food, to seek shelter on the approaching storm, and to find mate when the reproduction urge awakens. For us, the human beings, awareness is no longer about just survival; living just to stay alive. We have to be aware of the food we eat to stay healthy and live longer, of the strangers around us waiting to take advantage of our weakness, of the wastes we generated so as not to pollute the environment, etc. We begin to be aware of:
Our mortality and wonder if each person’s life is a onetime deal,
The haves and the haves-not and wonder if there is a purpose behind the unfairness,
Our creative endeavor as well as destructive tendency and wonder which one will prevail in the end, etc.
Just like other animals on Earth, our awareness is instinctive in nature. But, as we learn more about the world we are living in, our awareness has also gradually broadened beyond Earth toward the stars where the building materials of life come from.
Before the dawn of civilization, our awareness was confined to the unpredictable weather, the changing climate, the shaking ground, and the dangerous animals that threatened our survival. We learned to live together to pull our resources to build shelters against the sun/rain/storm, to make tools to facilitate our activities, and to put together weapons for hunting and fighting. As the threats to our survival diminished, we found times to understand more about the environment and the world we lived in. We invented languages to communicate and record our discoveries so that the future generations could benefit and carry on the guest for more knowledge and a better life. Thus, it began the journey of our civilization more than 7000 years ago.
As our civilization moved forward and we were no longer concerning about food, shelter, and other basic necessities, our awareness had expanded to law and order, manner and morality, rules and regulations, job and education, jealousy and prejudice, kindness and tolerance, etc. To live in a group, a community, a city, and latter a country, we learned:
What things we could do in public, how to raise a family in private, and the consequence of the uncontrolled emotional outburst and the violent urge,
Science and mathematics to help us solve problems with reason and logic, and to understand how Nature works,
Philosophy and religion to seek moral and spiritual guidance,
Literature and art to satisfy our intellect and expression, etc.
Our efforts had changed the ways we lived and in the process, transformed the Earth’s landscape:
With highways, railways, and runways that enable us to reach anywhere,
With low-rises, high rises, and other structures for people to live and work anywhere,
With machines that help to manage our more and more complex life styles, etc.
In the process, we had built a man-made world within Earth’s natural world to better serve our needs.
The man-made world is the crowning achievement of our civilization. It provides energy, shelter, food, entertainment, and other material needs to more than 7 billion free-spirited human beings. But, its drawbacks have pre-occupied our awareness – air pollution, soil contaminations, population explosion, territorial conflicts, civil wars, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, etc. We are learning to use clean energy (sun/wind/geothermal/water power) to reduce air population and to impose strict regulations on chemical waste disposal to minimize soil contamination. We are putting together worldwide relief and mediation organizations to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table and provide food and medicine to the innocent civilians displaced by the fighting. We are learning that life on Earth is depending on a delicate eco-system. This eco-system has been working flawlessly for more than 3.5 billion years. But, it is about to change as we are the only living things who are able to upset its process. Our awareness of the impending breakdown of this life sustaining system will help us change the way we live to be a part of Nature rather its master.
It is by no accident that our civilization has lasted 7000 years and is still going strong. We started just like any other animals with nothing but the urge to survive and the awareness of the dangers all around. Unlike the other animals, we are endowed with the ability to materialize our dreams, imagination, and intuition to live a life we desire. Slowly but surely, we build a man-made world where we can enjoy music, movie, literature, painting, and other indulgences that had nothing to do with the survival of the fittest. But, in the process of building the man-made world, we have also caused irreparable damages to the environment. Our awareness has again alerted us to the dangers that will threaten our survival as a species on Earth in the long run. We are here by no accident but the result of an evolutionary process that has withstood the test of time, the trial of the forces of Nature, and the guidance of the invisible laws of the Universe. We will prevail in spite of ourselves. Awareness is merely just one of the safeguards that make sure that nothing will go wrong in Nature’s game of life.