414. Up Or Down?

I sometimes watch Ancient Aliens, but in my own defense, it’s purely for entertainment.  I don’t know if we’ve been visited by aliens and I don’t think the people on that show know either.  But they come up with some pretty creative ideas, and that’s more than I can say for most shows.

I have a good friend, though, who takes Ancient Aliens so seriously that he pays to visit the websites of several “talking heads” who regularly appear there.  It seems they only tell part of the story on TV; there’s a lot more to the alien story, and this information is available to anyone willing to pay.

Recently my friend told me that the human race is poised to “ascend” to a higher level of consciousness.  Soon we will all – thanks to our “space brothers and sisters” – transform into wise beings with powers rivaling the gods (or aliens, I guess, since these people have just replaced “gods” with “aliens”).

In looking at the state of humanity – at least in this country – I see few signs of consciousness evolving but many signs of it devolving.  The arc of human history has generally bent towards increasing levels of consciousness and with it advances in civilization.  But today civilized behavior seems little more than an impediment to promoting one’s own agenda.  Where once civilization rested on a foundation of objective truth, today one selects whichever “facts” further one’s ends.  Where once we enshrined a system of written laws to ensure justice for all, now our Constitution is merely something to brandish at one’s political enemies.  Everything from gross immorality to blatant illegality is blithely ignored when one’s own party is in power.

For thousands of years Western history has been the story of the struggle of morality against immorality, of justice for all rather than for an elite few, of striving to find truth through reason and observation.  But not today.  So despite what the aliens say, I don’t see that we’re advancing.

Columbia University professor Andrew Delbanco has spent his career studying evil.  To him evil arises from “the absence of imaginative sympathy for other human beings.”  In other words, evil is deliberately ignoring the suffering of others, a human tendency ALL civilizations have struggled to evolve beyond.

Today, though, it’s fine to stop protecting air and water quality to win votes from coal country.  Today it’s fine to ignore mass shootings to win votes from those whose personal insecurities require unrestricted access to a range of deadly weapons.  Who cares about the people who’ll suffer as a result.

And I have to wonder – what about those who rather than ignoring suffering inflict it deliberately?  Those who hide behind Holy Scripture so they can discriminate?  Those who separate families, keeping children and parents locked in separate cages many miles apart? Even those who overpay for plastic straws just to make ocean pollution worse. Deliberately inflicting harm would seem to go well beyond Professor Delbanco’s definition of evil as simply ignoring the suffering of others.

Those who claim to speak for the aliens say this is all part of humanity’s evolving spirituality.  If they do speak for the aliens, then one nagging question has at least been answered – aliens are, indeed, evil.  More likely, though, these alien interpreters – like politicians – simply profit by saying what their followers want to hear.

Ultimately, it’s up to each of us to decide – is our collective consciousness trending up or down? The fate of civilization may well depend on getting this answer right and then acting – and voting – accordingly.

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