(praying for the safety of Floridians caught in Hurricane Michael)
Humans have acquired god-like powers with modern discoveries and technologies. To put these power to their highest and best use, we need to recall spiritual lessons. Torah teaches how best to solve problems with essentials of faith like optimism and humility, and not to drown in despair.
In the story of Noah, God was the optimist who became a pessimist. As Creator, God was hopeful. God changed a chaotic system into an orderly masterpiece. God saw this world and said it was very good.
Then human kind made a mess of things. Torah narrates that every plan designed by man’s mind was evil. And in response God’s heart was saddened. Humans were egocentric, arrogant and unjust. God lost faith and down came the rain. When God bewailed humankind’s failings, the world was submerged.
Post-diluvium God increasingly withdrew from earthly events. In the space that remained, humans sometimes lived as optimistic artisans of creation and at other times as cynical masters of destruction. Outlook and pride are factors that undergird the continuum between creation and destruction. Human history teaches that the virtuosity of humanity may be sustained by faithfulness while the brutality of people is fueled by self-importance.
With advanced technology and unbounded optimism, humankind’s progress accelerated. Humans have the power to explore the heavens, create life in test tubes, generate energy and cure disease. And in the wake of technological advancement we have acted selfishly by polluting, endangering, and plaguing this planet. The problems to be solved include climate change, food crises, cyber war and infectious disease. While we can’t yet perceive all of the solutions we have the ability to sustain life and avoid destruction if only we can learn a few crucial spiritual lessons.
The future relies not merely upon technology but also upon the advancement of factors born of our faith like humility and optimism. As to humility, we are not to behave as if we are all-powerful and all knowing. Recall that God prepared to destroy the world because each person acted as they determined without regard for what was just. While each of us is created in God’s image, none is more special than any other. No matter what people may create or what power may achieve, none of us are God.
As to optimism, we have to learn from God’s example that hope enables creativity but despair leads to destruction. Optimism means we are invested in good outcomes, not that we ignore a sea of troubles.
In the 21st century, planetary civilization must demonstrate faith to save the future: wake up, join together, think long term and solve problems. Even while people assume god-like status as technological masters, if we fail to also advance humility and hopefulness we may all drown in the next flood of destruction. This lesson of needing both technical skill and spiritual guidance comes to us from the ancient, enduring words of Torah.
Rabbi Evan Krame