Friday, January 29, 2010
Piece of work
Humanity has an exalted opinion of itself, and why not? It looks around, sees that it dominates all the animals, and to a certain extent the environment (although global warming may decide that contest rather decisively in favor of the home team). At the same time, one is distressingly aware of the shortcomings of this species. Shakespeare in Hamlet expressed exhaustion with the idealized Renaissance view of human potentiality: "What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties! In form and moving, how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?" Obviously, Hamlet was disenchanted. And who, living in this benighted day and age, can not be also? Still, that ideal contains the seed potentiality for the evolution of consciousness in the species. It resonates across the ages as a reminder that we are greater than we know. Even now, not in some distant future when mankind has purified itself and refined out its greed and violence, but now, we have the voices of our better angels deep inside our ears, quietly reminding us of who we already are.