The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Friday 22 December 2023

Humanity Is All We Have Left

We live in a time of crisis, uncertainty, and turmoil. Our time has been given a number of terminologies – poly-crisis, meta-crisis, environmental and social collapse, a predicament.1 A number of titles for our epoch have been suggested – the Great Turning, the Great Simplification, and the Anthropocene. The last of these (Anthropocene) was officially approved as a division of geologic time by the International Union of Geological Sciences in July 2022.2

Although nothing is ever definitive, many of the measures of planetary well-being are pointing to collapse of the world as we know it. Business As Usual cannot and will not continue.

Furthermore, our attempts to solve our way out of this are not working. More often than not our technological efforts at doing so only exacerbate the situation or shift the issue of concern from one part of the planetary system to another.

So, how do we, both individually and collectively, respond and cope with this? Do we just give up? Do we stop responding?

No! We still have our humanity.

Humanity – the quality of being humane. We still retain the virtues and values of compassion, benevolence, kindness, altruism, love that go towards defining us as human beings.

Yes, certainly, within human beings there also exist traits that go against these virtues. It does not take much to see hatred, division, violence, narcissism, and greed in the world.

Seeing these examples of ill-will is why we must work to retain our humanity (as defined above.)

Recognising, seeking, and holding onto our humanity has been a universal quest for millennia. The Chinese virtue of ren was important in the Confucian philosophy two and a half thousand years ago. Ren can be translated as co-humanity (thus emphasising the collective nature of the term) but let us consider how Confucius himself defined it.

‘Wishing to be established oneself, (one) seeks also to establish others; wishing to be enlarged oneself, (one) seeks also to enlarge others.’  

Confucius also spoke of seeking ren. ‘Ren is not far off, (the one) who seeks it has already found it.’

Clearly, Confucius understands that there is no distinction between the ends (humanity – ren) and the means (humanity – ren.)

We become humane by being humane.

Over the centuries many teachers, philosophers, spiritual leaders, and others have also written and spoken about humane virtues. Most of us can identify some of these: Plato, Aristotle, Jesus, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama for example.

More recently the field of psychology has begun to inquire into virtues and values and has found – unsurprisingly – that there is a quantifiably greater psychological and subjective well-being in individuals who place the values associated with humanity at the forefront of their being.

Furthermore, our humanity does not stop with humans. Our humanity extends to all creatures, and outward to encompass the planet as a whole. Humanity in this sense is not anthropocentric.

The epoch we are presently in is a dire one for Homo sapiens. We may not get through it. Thus far, our human facilities of innovation, mechanical enterprise, problem-solving, and technology have not prevented us arriving at this time, into this mess. Nor, will these facilities enable us to get out of the mess, or even through it.

What is most likely to permit us to stumble our way through this predicament is our humanity.

Accordingly, our humanity is all we have left. Indeed, it may be all we have ever had.


1. Technically these terms are not quite the same. Tom Murphy (professor of physics at the University of California) describes the difference between poly and meta-crisis. All the identified problems that constitute the “poly” stem from a single “meta.” The attitude of separateness from the community of life, the sense of superiority over other species, and self-praise over artificial accomplishment is what allowed the ugly profusion of poly problems.’ Tom Murphy, A Story of Mice (and Men,) 19 December 2023, in Do The Math.

The exact beginning of the Anthropocene is unclear, with experts suggesting anything from the start of the Agricultural Revolution (around 12,000 years ago) right up to 1960. However, it should be remembered that the Anthropocene is viewed in geological time scales, not human ones.

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