For every thousand nitwits, buffoons or wastrels that corrupt the collective intellect of the human species, there is one genius who sets the world afire with the guiding light of knowledge and innovation. Those of us who benefit from the products of a few hard-working minds often take for granted the sheer majesty of the wonders which these people have created, wonders that allow us to shape the very landscape itself.
This summer I flew to Asia, not carried by babbling birds or trumpeting angels as the superstitious ancients may have imagined, no. I was ferried across an ocean by a flying machine that represents the apotheosis of aerodynamics and human ingenuity.
Realizing the glory of this achievement, I understood that the only thing keeping my frail mortal body from a brutal plunge into the blue ocean 40,000 feet below were a few thin sheets of aluminum. The airplane, a mechanical marvel now utilized by millions, has enabled our wingless mammalian species to effortlessly fly with the birds, but faster, better, stronger.
Humanity encircling the globe with wings of steel has flattened our earth considerably. When we reflect upon what this single invention has done for trade, travel and tactics, it should inspire us to have pride in the human species and the best that it has to offer: Pride in our engineers, who toil constantly to give us the means by which we build and flourish; pride in our entrepreneurs, who forge the most distant dreams into dazzling reality; and most important of all, pride in humanityâ€™s instinct to always grasp at the unreachable.
Homo sapiens is an innovative species, with an irrepressible curiosity. Though we may be inundated with hordes of superstitious and ignorant people, one great mind is sufficient to create something new and valuable. Of new inventions, new technology, new machines, many will be risky enough to present a danger to the very survival of our species. The discovery of the method for splitting the atom is one poignant example. As the astronomer Jill Tarter so eloquently put it, â€œThe story of humans is the story of ideas … that shine light into dark corners.â€
Even without risks on such a grand scale, the quest for discovery has always been a perilous endeavor. What courage it must have taken for the few intrepid explorers to brave uncharted territories marked, â€œHere there be monsters!â€ In a reality filled with the constant annihilation of even the galaxies themselves, danger certainly lurks around every corner.
Like Icarus, will we venture too close to the sun? Shall we open Pandoraâ€™s Box? I submit gladly that it is inevitable.
It is in our genes to crave the ineffable secrets of the universe, and this above all is natureâ€™s greatest achievement. Carl Sagan once wrote in one of his publications, â€œWe are creatures of the cosmos and always hunger to know our origins, to understand our connection with the universe.â€œ
With our unique minds and inquisitive spirit, Homo sapiens is presented with the same dilemma that all biological life has been given; we must either conquer nature or be consumed by it. Naturally, I am one that prefers the former.