Hail Augusta! Our first grandchild, Augusta Quinn Tiller-DePew, was born this week, amid great excitement.
People say that all newborns look the same, and I’ve even said such things myself. But I’ve changed my view. Little Augusta is especially beautiful, and also talented. She already knows how to eat, sleep, and wiggle. Her heart, lungs, colon, kidneys, and other systems and subsystems clearly know what they need to do, and they’re all hard at work. And she knows how to let everyone know when there’s something she doesn’t like — she cries!
Sally and I drove up to Jersey City to greet the new arrival and try to be helpful. Holding her for the first time was wonderful. I felt hopeful for the future. It also made me think a bit about our responsibility to possible future generations.
When I was in Alaska recently, I talked with a nice woman whose grown children had vowed not to have children, because of concerns that the world was already too awful a place for a new child, and more people would just make it worse. I can understand and even respect this stern view. But I would argue for another position.
The world has no shortage of horrors, but it’s still possible to find a lot of beauty and joy. It all may end badly, with horrific climate change, nuclear apocalypse, or a giant asteroid, but not necessarily. Human activity accounts for a lot of our dire situation, but that also means there’s a possibility that humans will work out rescue plans. At any rate, we’d better give it a shot.
I was cheered this week to learn that a number of megarich people are joining Jeff Bezos to dedicate a very large sum ($5 billion) to an effort to save 30 percent of the earth’s natural areas and prevent the extinction of a large number of species. As the latest IPCC report reminded us again a few weeks back, our climate crisis requires immediate action, and this message is starting to resonate.
This could be the beginning! We may be on the verge of new ways of understanding ourselves, our relationships, and our environment. Some of the problems that have seemed intractable have to do with the way we were educated, and specifically with the way we were trained to think about our relations to each other and nature. Just seeing some new perspectives could make our hard problems easier to solve.
One example, which I mentioned in my post last week, is how we’ve been trained to think about animals as, if not dangerous, always inferior and morally insignificant. Maybe we’ll try understanding them better, dialing down the fear and cultivating respect for them and their communities. It would surely change us for the better.
Similarly, we’ve long been schooled in questionable assumptions about human nature, which make it difficult for us to question social relations based on greed and violence. We even doubt our own eyes when we happen to notice successful communities based on empathy, peaceful cooperation and loving support. With a bit of effort, we may find more such relationships, and learn to cultivate still more.
Changing our thinking at this level may sound impossible, but it’s not. Some people are definitely there already, and their numbers seem to be growing.