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THE CHALLENGES OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

17 May 2019 No Comment

THE CHALLENGES OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
Father John Walsh

The twenty-first century is opening many new ways to understand ourselves as human beings. In fact, we are writing a new human narrative; perhaps even creating a new way of being “human.” To whom can we turn for advice and counsel to find our way and to become comfortable in a brave new world. Charles Taylor has impressively treated how we became who we are in his opus Sources Of The Self – The Making Of Modern Identity and writes: “the intention of this work was one of retrieval, an attempt to uncover buried goods through rearticulations — and thereby to make these sources again empower, to bring the air back again into the half-collapse lungs of the spirit.” Francis Fukuyama writes in Identity – The Demand For Dignity And The Politics Of Resentment that “Identity can be used to divide, but it can and has been used to integrate. That in the end will be the remedy for the populist politics of the present.” Taylor, almost ten years after Self writes in A Secular Age that “history cannot be separated from the situation it has brought about. We have to understand religious/spiritual life today in all its different thrusts, resistances, and reactions, e.g., to discipline, homogenization.” Kwame Anthony Appiah in Lies That Bind – Rethinking Identity that there is agreement “that culture isn’t a box to be checked on the questionnaire of humanity; it is a process you join in living a life with others.” The choices we make determine who we are and how we are to live our lives. The demands on us are earth-shattering and have long lasting effects on the existence of the planer. Jeremy Rifkin in The Empathic Civilization — The Race To Global Consciousness In A World In Crisis challenge all of us to realize that “the Empathic Civilization is emerging and we are fast extending our empathic embrace to the whole of humanity and the vast project of life that embraces the planet. But our rush to universal empathic connection is running up against a rapidly accelerating entropic juggernaut in the form of climate change and the proliferation of mass destruction.” He leaves us with a startling question: “Can be reach biosphere consciousness and global empathy in time to avert planetary collapse?” Yuval Noah Harari pushes the edge of the envelope in his writing. In Sapiens — A Brief History of Humankind he writes “that we are more powerful than ever before, but have little idea what to do with all that power. Worse still, humans seem to be more irresponsible than ever. Self-made gods with only the laws of physics to keep is company, we are accountable to no one. We are consequently wreaking havoc on our fellow animals and on the surrounding ecosystem, seeking little more than our own comfort and amusement, yet never finding satisfaction. Is there anything more dangerous that dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?” Harari continues in Homo Deus – A Brief History of Tomorrow that there are three questions we must address: “1. Are organism really just algorithms and is life just data processing? 2. What’s more valuable – intelligence or consciousness? 3. What will happen to society, politics and daily life when non conscious but highly intelligent algorithms know us better that we know ourselves?” Recently Harari wrote 21 Lessons for the 21st Century and in discussing about “God,” he writes: “Not visiting any temples and not believing in any god, we don’t need to invoke God’s name in order to live4 a moral life. Secularism can provide us with all the values we need.” Is there still any need to reflect on our lives in the twenty-first century from the perspective of our faith traditions? The Dalai Lama talks to Desmond Tutu and in The Book of Joy and says that “The bigger and warmer our heart, the stronger our sense of aliveness and resilience. So now we have to think seriously. Just to pray or rely on religious faith is not sufficient. It will remain a source of inspiration but in terms of seven billion human beings, it is not sufficient. No matter how excellent, no religion can be universal. So we have to find another way to promote values. I think the only way really is, through education. Education is universal. We must teach especially our youth, the source of happiness and satisfaction. We must teach them that the ultimate source of happiness is within themselves. Not machine. Not technology. Not money. Not power. Love, kindness and affection are the source of joy and happiness.” Noah Chomsky, a social activist, in a Netflix story, now in book form, Requiem For The American Dream quotes his close friend the late Howard Ziinn who said, ”what matters is the countless small deeds of unknown people, who lay the basis for the significant events that enter history.” And if this doesn’t stir our heats we can listen to Pope Francis who quotes Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross: “The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step forth out of the darkest night. But for the most part, the formative stream of the mystical life remains invisible. Certainly the most decisive turning points in world history are substantially co-determined by souls whom no history book ever mentions. And we will only find out about those souls to whom we owe the decisive turning points in our personal lives on the day when all that is hidden is revealed.”
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