The biggest crimes stand in the open; what prevents people from seeing them is simply their size and the fact that they are crimes. We can’t believe that such large evils are possible. They have to be explicable some other way. And so we notice them for only the blink of an eye, immediately conjuring a rationalization to save ourselves from the sight.
It’s really terribly impressive: Toss a fact at a human who can’t bear to see it and he/she will devise a passable escape in a fraction of a second. Cut the first escape down and a second will follow in another second or two. Humans are brilliant thinkers when things get serious, and not just the “smart” ones – the most mundane intellect can do this shockingly well.
Can you imagine what we could do if we applied that brain-power to something better than defending our blindness?
But rather than running you straight into a difficult sight, I’ll just explain that these crimes nearly always share a core component, which is the restraint of human abilities. And I’ll paint a background for you with a quote I’ve used before, from G.K. Chesterton’s book, The Defendant:
There runs a strange law through the length of human history – that men are continually tending to undervalue their environment, to undervalue their happiness, to undervalue themselves. The great sin of mankind… is the tendency, not towards pride, but towards this weird and horrible humility. This is the great fall, the fall by which every man… in the fullest and most literal sense, forgets himself.
If Chesterton was right and if I’m right, we have failed to see ourselves, and the fact that this is too big to accept is what keeps us down.
The question then becomes, What are we really? That is a question I can answer.
We Are The Engines of Creation
Just about everyone in the modern West is bombarded with assertions that mankind is nasty, stupid, unfit, and disgusting. We’ve heard them for so long that we define ourselves as being different than the vile herd.
In other words, we take humanity being bad as a given and portray ourselves as “other” in one way or another.
And yet, the people we know are mostly pretty decent. They have their errors and shortcomings, but most days and in most ways, they are reasonably reliable and humane.
We’ve been made to not see the good.
I say this because I want you to consider that this deep bias has been foisted upon us by those who reap from us.
I’d also like you to consider than humanity is, by nature, far, far better than advertised. Here are the basics in four quick points:
- All inanimate things are entropic. Eventually they all wind down and wear out.
- Living things reverse entropy. A fruit tree, for example, takes in gasses from our atmosphere, light from the sun, minerals and water from the ground. Then it organizes, concentrates, and harmonizes them… and produces fruit. This is perhaps the central characteristic of life.
- Plants and animals reverse entropy in defined channels.Each is able to reverse entropy in certain preprogrammed ways, but not in others.
- Humans can reverse entropy willfully. We choose how we will reverse entropy, and we do so almost infinitely. Or, we can evade such choices.
Humans, then, are inherently creative beings. We cannot create matter out of nothing, but we can mold it to an infinite number and variety of uses. We are the fountains of new and beneficial action in the universe.
Human life, then, is a cardinal value in the universe, making the restraint of human life a cardinal offense.
I could go on at length (and did as recently as issue #105 of our subscription newsletter), but what’s noted above is really enough. The restraint of human creativity is the ultimate crime, and it is so pervasive, so huge, that allowing ourselves to see it is a major challenge.
I’ll close with another passage from the same book by Chesterton:
Every one of the great revolutionists, from Isaiah to Shelly, have been optimists. They have been indignant, not about the badness of existence, but about the slowness of men in realizing its goodness.
We are more and better than we have imagined, and once we allow ourselves to see it, we’ll become more and better in actual fact.
7 thoughts on “The Ultimate Crime”
Thanks, Paul! For me, this is one of your great insights. I appreciate the way you bring it forth in various contexts from time to time.
Two of your other insights I value greatly are how men are innately moral, and how love (the desire to bless) is the inexorable path to human improvement.
Thanks, Nelson. It’s readers like you who make it worthwhile.
With some obvious exceptions, I don’t think that humans are at all special.
In fact I think that humans are a plague on the plant and are irresponsibly
reproducing at a rate that will soon strangle the planet.
I don’t think “special” really matters. “Good” matters.
Fruit trees may produce fruit, but that is not their goal. That is a human goal for fruit trees. The fruit trees themselves are just trying to make more fruit trees. Kind of like humans. Moderation in all things is good. When are there too many humans?
And while humans reverse entropy in some areas of their existence that might come at the cost of increasing entropy in other places. Like countries that export their environmentally harmful industries to developing countries. Let’s put our entropy in someone else’s backyard.
As far as I’ve understood it, humanity is responsible for the currently ongoing ‘great extinction event’ because we’re simply too successful. Which seems pretty damn entropic. What’s our excuse? That if we weren’t doing it, then the second most successful species would be?
“Fruit trees may produce fruit, but that is not their goal.”
Fruit trees don’t have goals, they are things, not beings.
“while humans reverse entropy in some areas of their existence…”
You don’t negate a fact by speculating that it may have limits. It doesn’t have to meet your approval. It is simply a true and magical wonder.
“humanity is responsible for the currently ongoing ‘great extinction event'”
So some have been saying for centuries… as if their predictions are so magnificent that they should dictate human responsibilities and actions.
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