Nature has the power to humble us. As much as the ravages of natural disasters are tragic, they also remind us that we do not own this planet, we will never overcome it, and our abuses will never go unpunished. But there is also something astounding in the ingenuity of human achievement. The universe gives us gravity; humanity responds with bridges, towering skyscrapers, and planes. Process the concept of taking an 85 metric tonne hunk of metal and getting it to lift off the ground and fly it at speeds over 500 mph at 30,000-40,000 ft. If that doesn’t take your breath away, few things will.
I love nature and, if my life ambitions can be boiled down to a select few, moving further away from cities would be high on the list. But I love the culture one finds it cities too and so I am drawn to them as well. Let me find a place to live surrounded with trees and lakes and rivers, with mesmerizing sunrises and sunsets, with immense mountains and enchanted vistas, but let me be close enough to the city to see the marvels that one finds there.
While attending a conference for work this past weekend, I was simultaneously appalled at the dearth of green space and in awe of the vast network of towering monuments to human achievement. It is not that I think skyscrapers and overlapping overpasses are the greatest testament to what humanity has accomplished. The growth of compassion and philanthropy would be more valuable evidence. But, regardless of your personal beliefs, humans were in some sense delivered into the world innocent, ignorant, and naive. With observation they learned, with creativity they explained, with tenacity they tested, and with ingenuity they created. They created the wheel, and bridges, and buildings, and music, and medicine, and trains, and cars, and planes, and transistors, and microchips, and… and then they took it a step further. They didn’t just build something practical: they created art. Engineers fought physics, architects made it aesthetic; scientists produced technology, designers made it alluring. There is a beauty in that. Sometimes it is an austere, cold beauty, but it is a beauty nevertheless.
Today, I am thankful for human ingenuity. It has sometimes led to terrible outcomes, but overall our world is an incredible place to live simply because of the power of the human mind to evolve the most fantastical idea into reality.