Are we humans getting better?

The more things change, the more they stay the same. It seems that as I enter my 71st year of life, the more I contemplate that statement.

It compels a person in the final decades of life to ponder such questions as, “Who is God that he is aware of us?” and, “Who are we that we are aware of him?”

Or, do we think about such things only because we can’t accept nonexistence at the end?

Then that suggests other thoughts on what are we, or what is a creation in which we only exist with whatever importance we attach to it.

The first impulse is to congratulate ourselves on how well we have evolved over the centuries since Jesus explained what we are, and how we should be.

Surely we have improved fundamentally with such things as broader knowledge and the invention of electricity, dish washers, automobiles—a veritable treasure trove of improvements.

We’ve gotten away from such things as executing a person on a cross, or killing them in a ring with gladiators or lions while we gape in glee at all the blood.

We moved away from the range in executions by hanging in England in the 1700s. There was the tight noose for immediate death, or the loose noose for slow death with accompanying disembowelment according to the perceived severity of the crime. Those crimes could vary all the way from poaching to treason to murder.

Are we really getting better all of the time? Surely Jesus or any other alleged prophet with half a conscience would ask, “Look at you, how much have you really evolved and improved?”

I’d like to say, yes, the character inside us has really changed a lot, and we have evolved to new plateaus that really place us above the values of our ancestors.

But, there is so much evidence that we haven’t changed. We don’t need the Roman arena because television and movies provide us with entertaining bloodshed and horror without the need to kill real people. You see, they are just actors so that makes enjoyment OK.

Do you suppose an hour of “CSI” is somewhat near the entertainment value of an hour of killing real people in the arena? I don’t really mean to pick only on “CSI” because there is a myriad of television shows, horror and bloodshed to provide us with all we need.

What happens to a society when this becomes an accepted norm?

There are all kinds of “norms” in our society to point at, and we have historians and scientists who can verify what happens in societies with certain trends if they aren’t too dedicated to the trends themselves to speak up.

For instance, in all references I have seen, there has never been a society that countenanced abortion, particularly for convenience, that didn’t also eventually countenance euthanasia for the elderly or the ill.

We argue gun control when innocents are killed in mass shootings, but why don’t we talk about the state hospitals that once existed that have been closed to save money? How many mass killings have been done by mentally deranged persons who once would have been locked up with people trying to help them even though the methods weren’t always the best?

We talk about reducing the use of fossil fuels, but few people talk about restorating oxygen producing plants in abandoned housing areas, deserted manufacturing areas or other depleted locations.

There are children taken on field trips from inner cities who have never seen trees growing. Surely someone can be found to fund planting trees in urban areas.

All of this, and many related questions, can only compel a person to think more about the meaning of life, and where they are in it as an individual.

Nobody can do this for me. I have to do it for myself just as you have to do this for yourself.

I like to spend time contemplating, outside under a tree on green grass, or by a pond of water, or inside in front of the windows if it’s cold outside. Sometimes I’m really thinking of all these questions, and sometimes I’m just enjoying being there.

I’m not for or against Bernie Sanders, but I wonder what he’s thinking about being a presidential candidate when he’s in his 70s.

I guess that’s for him to think about because I have better things to ponder.

I’m going to cut this short because I have a tree to sit under for a while.

Jerry Engler has been a reporter and feature writer for the Free Press for many years, but recently retired. This column was published previously.

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