Marks and Remarks
Food for the Mind and Eye

No. 0101, December 26, 2016


The Angelification Crisis

     Before we get involved with this critically important matter, we present for your retinal pleasure another pair of images that did not make it into the 2017 calendar. Enjoy!

Copyright 2016 by S. W. Paul Wyszkowski

Copyright 2016 by S. W. Paul Wyszkowski

     Like a car or a gun, an intelligent mind is a potentially lethal weapon only vastly more so. That is perhaps the central problem of human existence. With intelligence comes the capacity for effective action but its objective can be anything from general enhancement of enjoyment of life for all living beings to its perverse opposite: destroying others' enjoyment of life for personal profit and/or as a narcissistic demonstration of superior intelligence.

     There are two ways to approach this problem. One is through attainment of a still higher level of intelligence leading to the understanding that enriching oneself indiscriminately at the cost of others is ultimately a self-defeating strategy. "Enlightened selfishness" is the term for this level of intelligence. However, it doesn't actually solve the problem. Appearing kind and generous to one's subjects to retain their loyalty and to protect one's profits may be an even more pernicious misuse of intelligence than outright exploitation and persecution. At least the latter bears the seeds of its own destruction.

     The other way to solve the problem of high human intelligence and the only one that actually works, is through the process of angelification. Our high and apparently increasing level of self-consciousness suggests evolution towards a more angelic nature as opposed to the inherently selfish animal nature. The instances of altruism among mere animals, humans included, are of the "enlightened selfishness" kind, applied collectively to a species or a tribe. Angelic nature, on the other hand, requires truly unconditional altruism as exemplified by one of the frequently quoted angelic dictums: "love your enemy". This is radically counterintuitive as an evolutionary strategy but over time and space it works, against all rational odds and expectations, even though individual cases may fail (whence tragic heroism).

     Of course, we are not there yet. We, humans, are still part animals, part angels and the degree of our commitment to one or the other of our twinned natures varies with individuals and circumstances. Generally, we are still inclined to get ours any way we can and devil take the hindmost, though the "better angels of our nature" do tend to restrain us. We have achieved a certain amount of civilization, more in some places than in others. We need to build on that and rather quickly if we hope to avoid devouring each other because this little planet cannot long support all of us such as we are now.

     "Was that a veiled Christmas jeremiad by any chance?" Prickles inquires. Oh, does it come across as veiled? Happy New Year!

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