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, seek shelter in the approaching storm, and to find a mate when the reproduction urge awakens. For us, human beings, awareness is no longer about just survival and 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 also begin to be aware of:
1) Our mortality and wonder if each person’s life is a one-time deal,
2) The haves and the have-nots and wonder if there is a purpose behind the unfairness,
3) 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. 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 incremental weather, to make tools to facilitate our daily 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 with one another and to record our discoveries so that future generations could benefit and carry on the guest for more knowledge and a better life. Thus, it began the journey of our broadening awareness more than 7000 years ago.
As our civilization moved forward and we were no longer concerned about food, shelter, and other necessities, our awareness had expanded to the necessities of 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 later a country, we learned:
1) What things we could do in public, how to raise a family in private, and the consequence of the uncontrolled emotional outburst,
2) Science and mathematics help us solve problems with reason and logic, and to understand how Nature works,
3) Philosophy and religion to seek moral and spiritual guidance,
4) Literature and art to satisfy our intellect and expression, etc.
Our awareness and efforts had changed the ways we lived and in the process, transformed the Earth’s landscape:
1) With highways, railways, and runways that enable us to reach anywhere,
2) With low-rises, high-rises, and other structures for people to live and work anywhere,
3) With telephones, computers, and other machines that help to manage our more and more complex lifestyles, 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, a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, etc. We are learning to:
1) 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.
2) Put together worldwide relief and mediation organizations to bring the warring countries to the negotiating table and provide food and medicine to the innocent civilians displaced by hunger.
3) Understand that life on Earth is depending on a delicate ecosystem that has been working behind the scene flawlessly for more than 3.5 billion years.
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 than 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, imaginations, and intuitions to live the life we desire. Slowly but surely, we build a man-made world where we can enjoy music, movie, literature, painting, gourmet foods, and other indulgences that have nothing to do with the survival of the fittest.
But, in the process of building the man-made world, we have also caused irreparable damage to the environment. Our awareness has again alerted us to the dangers that will threaten our existence as a species on Earth in the long run. We are hereby 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 despite ourselves. Awareness is merely just one of the safeguards that make sure that nothing will go wrong in Nature’s game of life.