On 12th August this year, NASA sent the Parker Solar Probe on a mission into space to be the first to ‘touch’ the sun. Like many other people around the globe, I follow their work with great anticipation. I am not joking when I insist that I cannot die before any discovery of previous life on Mars would be confirmed. When some time ago there was news of the discovery of possible traces of water on the Red Planet, I exclaimed spontaneously: ‘Motherland!’, which I have to admit sounds ridiculous. And yet, the miracle of life on our planet has fascinated humans for thousands of years. Our eyes were drawn intuitively to the sky at night even before the ancient Egyptians made the stars and their constellations an integral part of their life and afterlife. On every part of the globe, early inhabitants worshipped the sun, the life-giver.
The development of science and technology over the last hundred years has presented a few theories on how life started. Meteors falling brought chemical ingredients as precursors for life in addition to those already present on Earth. We know that by a lucky coincidence the forces of gravity placed Earth’s matter in a precise position to the sun to create later life. Not too close and not too far but just right for carbon atoms (the most important element of life) to bind with other atoms into chains and create complex chemical reactions, even DNA. The other essential element was silicon, that is the main element in rocks building. Today’s silicon intelligence is the only rival to our carbon-built brain. Only energy was needed in that mix, and creation of life in the fertile soup that our planet was then, could, over millions of years, begin. When later on, the earth developed a crust surface, the gases around it and the presence of water provided the ingredients for life creation. Volcanic eruptions and gravity created the earth’s atmosphere enabling the process. Now the Blue Planet is amazingly, breathtakingly beautiful – forests, mountains, rivers, meadows and oceans. Our own achievement – cities with their magnificent cathedrals, other places of worship and culture, parks and gardens, sculptures and fountains, should make us aware and proud of our shared heritage. One life is not enough to see it and admire all.
My first point is this: knowledge of the amazing chain of coincidences which created our planet should make everyone aware what a gift and privilege it is to be alive. Primary and secondary school children should be taught over and over again that life is precious and not to be wasted. As Longfellow wrote in his famous verse:
“We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time.”
I am writing this because today the creation of the first in the world Ministry for Prevention of Suicide was announced. Self-harm, sense of isolation, and lack of purpose leads to a continuing increase in the number of suicides, especially among young people. Yet the message is there all the time – from the film “It’s a Wonderful Life”(that every life matters) to the Roman maxim, and lately same final advice from Professor Hawking, – ‘Look to the stars and not at your feet.’ Why are we not teaching our children this from a very young age in Life Skills lessons? And the other wisdom that should be repeated continuously until it becomes a mantra; we are survivors and there is a solution to every problem. Of course, those people who have a chemical imbalance and need medical treatment are not going to be helped just by discussions.
My second point is that we are here alone, and only a human can help another human being. And while we cannot help everybody, everybody can help someone. One columnist of a national newspaper wrote mockingly: “Everyone is helpful and keeps their promises, and if you believe this, the moon is made of cheese.” I would rather adopt Cary Grant’s remark in one of his films: ‘If only we could be more like humans, we would create Heaven right here on Earth.’ I am writing this because we have let down a whole generation by pretending that ethics don’t matter and we can all do whatever we like. Unfortunately, in reality this theory leads to chaos and often tragedy. A young man of my acquaintance said to me a few days ago: “Every day when I wake up, I ask myself – why am I here?”
My answer would be Goethe’s – I am here to wonder.
I would also add – I am here to help another, even if it isn’t convenient to me. And I do.
William Blake perfectly described the wonder of our unique world:
“To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.”
We all should strive that our children understand their luck in being here because a failure to do so is a crime against humanity. If we won’t protect our children, who will?