May 7, 2018

What If?

My car radio has the feature that allows phone calls to come through the sound system.  Recently I was driving in town, the phone rang and suddenly I was chatting with a friend in another country.  I thought nothing of it until later when my grandma came to mind. She travelled from Illinois to Kansas in a covered wagon!  I wondered how amazed would she have been.  But then, I am amazed too!  It wasn’t that long ago that phones were tethered to the wall, when pay phones were everywhere (seen one lately?)

In high school, a trip to the library was a regular outing.  We envied those kids whose family had a whole set of encyclopedia.  Now I ask a little machine a question and it immediately provides the answer.  I can talk to my phone, too.  Siri is always ready to have a conversation. Ask Siri if he (or she, depending on your preference) is happy and the response will be something like "I don't believe I have been programmed for that." One time he said "Happiness is a human experience."

There are so many amazing technologies we take for granted these days.  Why are we not in a state of awe and wonder all the time? Simply, it is because we expect human ingenuity to keep inventing new things.  We know it is a faculty of consciousness to imagine.  The most often asked question of all of us is "What if?"  What if war were no longer considered an answer to anything?  What if we reversed the effects of the pollution we have caused?  What if humans banded together and lived in peace?  What if there were enough of everything for everybody?  What if Love was the most common experience in our day?

Surely the same mind that thought it would be a good idea to pave roads, travel to the moon, build skyscrapers, could answer those questions.  Maybe we need to get back to awe and wonder at the miracle of life itself and the amazing fact that, as Emerson said, greater than any invention is the little hand that built it, and greater than the hand is the mind that conceived it.  We ought to have faith in the human mind to solve the challenges of our time.  We have everything we need, but we must believe we can answer the "what if" questions.  It is not a given that we will rise to the challenge. As the great architect, William Mc Donough noted,  "It took us five thousand years to put wheels on our luggage!"

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