Going to Extremes

Extreme by Kimli, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License by  Kimli

I’m sitting here in my office soaking up the morning sun as the thermometer registers 29º F outside – a seven degree improvement over the 5:30 AM reading. It’s December 15th in southwest Florida. This is the second week in a row we’ve had to cover up our beautiful garden to protect it from the frost and cold. The 5th night of freezing temperatures already this season and it’s not even officially winter yet! How can this be? What has happened to our weather patterns and predictable climate? We go from 90 degree days from June through November, and then wham! – cold and freezing.

This new weather pattern reminds me of how us humans have been acting lately. No moderation. No continuum – only the extreme ends of the spectrum showing up and making life miserable. It seems that we live in a world of extremes these days: extreme sports, extreme political viewpoints, extreme religious zealots, extreme climate change, extreme entertainment, extreme economies, wealth, and poverty. What has happened to the world? What has happened to us humans?

We seem to value ideas and actions that polarize us rather than bring us together. Too many of us are engaged in conversations and activities that do nothing to strengthen our ability to survive as a species and all too often serve to tear us apart and break down any hope we may have of living on this Earth in a sustainable way for generations to come. And I wonder why.

We are the species that has evolved higher order thinking – able to gather information, analyze situations, make decisions in a way other than by pure survival instinct – and yet we do not exercise that power, that gift, that evolved ability for the purpose of our own species’ survival. We use it more often to make individuals strong and powerful for the short term to the demise of other individuals and our species as a whole. But individuals will not protect us from our collective selfishness. It will take the whole of us to do that. It will take a shift in consciousness that I fear will not happen soon enough.

I think of the future my son faces as he enters adulthood looking for work. I think of the future my husband and I face as we ponder what might have been our retirement years, but surely will not be. I contemplate how I will help my aging parents live their last years as actively and as comfortably as possible. I think of all the peoples of the world who are much worse off than we are – who face illnesses, threat of war and death, total loss of freedom or dignity, who don’t have access to clean water or enough food. And I wonder why.

We are smarter than this. As a species, as a society we have to seek moderation, not extremes. We have the capacity to make life safe, livable, and decent for all people. The question is… do we have the will?

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