Monthly Archives: March 2008

Semanturgy and the End of Humanity

The latest word is that we’re doomed.  

We can put aside the details, such as how we got this way, how long it will take for us to be wiped off the face of the earth, that sort of thing is all beside my current objective, which is to imagine what comes next.

One of the most profound moments of a human being’s life is when they reach complete consciousness of their own mortality.  Our lives take on new meaning as we view our existence from an imaginary point in death: how we will be remembered, how will the sum of our actions and words appear,  what impact will we have had.  

Such a perspective helps us to crystallize our purpose.  We can realize which path we have been following, and decide to continue or veer in another direction.  This epiphany is an important moment, ideally an important series of moments over a lifetime, from the viewpoint of semanturgy, which is a conscious working with meaning.  To apply principles and purposes directly to a life consciously lived is semanturgy in it’s essential form.

We must imagine beyond our individual deaths when considering global warming, nuclear war, or any other event or process leading to the potential end of humanity.  It is not enough to wonder, what impact will I have? or how will I be remembered? if it is the apocalypse.  Who will be around to give a damn?  Now the questions become impossibly bigger.  What did it mean that ANY of us were around?  What impact did ANY of us have?  

If we accept some measure of responsibility in the cause of the end, then I suppose we have to say that the meaning we constructed in our world reflects a larger value being placed on things such as profit and power rather than on the life of any of earth’s creatures, including ourselves.

And assuming we dutifully play our part in the solution, voting, writing letters, buying locally, cycling, however we choose to participate, and assuming that the end comes anyway, then what does it all mean?  

If you are a member of a certain religion that explains all this, then you have it all sorted out, so read no further.  

For the rest of us, we come to an extremely existential moment in which all word, deed and relic of humanity falls uselessly into oblivion.  Yet after this experience, we still have to figure out what is for dinner, complete another task on our to-do list, conduct smalltalk with the cashier at the grocery store.  What is the overarching goal of our day to day survival, if we will never be the next Elvis or Mother Theresa, never be remembered or revered, if even the fostering of our bloodline, the fundamental biological goal of existence, will be for naught?  

Does it make our actions even more profoundly amazing, a generous gesture to a stranger, an encouraging word to a passerby, when we know it will come to nothing more than the fleeting presence of love, living only in the immediate moment and then lost forever?

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