Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Having Gone to a Talk to get Extra Credit for Class...

I have always been a sucker for extra credit. There is always that lurking hope that if I do extra credit now, then I have the ability and licence to slack off later. My overacheiver fights my lazier side and I do the extra work so that I can feel better about my general procrastinations. Anyway, this chance was too good to pass up as I could write one paper and turn it in to two different teachers and get extra credit in both classes. And, I had read a book by this guy and actually enjoyed it. Anyway, here follows my take on the talk.

I am in a room with many many people. The sound of clapping is even and strong like the echoes of a steady hail in the metal gymnasium from high school. People stand at the edges of the room filled to the full extent of the fire code. Every seat is full, except one I see up near the front next to a lady who must be saving it for someone. But although these people are far more exciting than the long list of people being recognized for their participation in this symposium, they are not the focus of the evening. No, we are discussing the world's population and resources and collapse.

The speaker, Dr. Jared Diamond, sits at the edge of the stage. His introducer claims Dr. Diamond's fame and acheivements, which I don't doubt. But I wonder if this smiling bearded man, who is still yet a man, can really be worth so much as the seemingly incredible fee and enormous hype. If we ever get to hear him, perhaps I will have a chance to decide. Is this man's mind so truly brilliant? I read a book by him, and it was good. It addressed the broad picture of the world which was fascinating. But he is yet a man. His record is that of a man. He has been blessed by God, certainly, with intellect, intelligence, and witty journal and book titles. Since he has published so many it is good that they are witty. His work "will stand for at least thirty years" the introducer says. Great, I say. But is thirty years enough? I want to have an impact that affects hundreds of years from now, even eternity. I don't care if they remember my name so much as my God is instilled in their hearts and they learn His love. I want to fellowship with them in eternity. I wonder if Dr. Diamond will be "forever".

He begins well, connecting to his audience with fluid speech, uncluttered with fillers like "umm" and "uhh". His brown suit fits his academic persona. He speaks of collapse. It began as a love for the romantic mysteries of failed civilizations. He, along with humanity, is captured by the stories of grand peoples of the past and their clouded demise. We are a species of storytellers and storylovers.

With the collapse there is paired the hope of some success stories and both have lessons to teach the growing global world. Human impact on the world's environment, continuous global climate change, enemies, friends, and internal social framework all play integral parts in the courses of nations. These will be the reasons a civilization collapses. Determining which one was the actual cause could be difficult, nearly impossible, but that doesn't mean that there are not still lessons to be learned.
Dr. Diamond goes through a series of peoples: some failures, some successes. Easter Island was deforested which led to starvation, war, and cannibalism. The island has ironic name for such a death. Easter is a time of rebirth and resurrection. Japan and the Takegawa Era properly cared for their environment and balanced their use and production and have survived without collapse. Environment has importance in the survival of nations.

The world's population is still expanding. Many elites and even the United States are isolated from several of the world's largest problems. A country's collapse in the global world today would not be an isolated event, it would affect the world, especially if it were a large and powerful country. Dr. Diamond has hope however, despite the facts that there are more and more people and more and more destructive technologies, there is the hope that we can learn from past societies and from societies around the world today. We can learn to avoid collapse. Education is the solution. It reminds me of the push for public schools in American history and how for so many, for so long, education was seen as the solution for morality. If people only learned what was nice and what wasn't nice they would do good. But not only is that not enough, it doesn't even work.

Dr. Diamond brings up the Core Values of consumerism and isolationism and how they won't work in our global society. He brought up the fact that we need to invest ourselves in countries for long term. It brought to mind work in Iraq. Then he mentioned Iraq. That country haunts me like a strange smell: alluring, terrifying, beautiful, captivating, and so many other things.

In answering questions, he is smooth, tactful, vague, the essential patriotic with the message to vote. It is all very nice, even pleasant to everyone. And yet, one wonders if there isn't something grander in the world than a simple striving to save the planet. What are we saving the planet for? It is no surprise to me that the world will end someday, but it is not my intention to destroy the planet for my own diabolical plans. Instead, there should be something more, a purpose hidden somewhere in all that agenda.

And then he ends, far too early, far to short, having skimmed the surface of subjects that must be far deeper and far more interesting than the superficial overview in his presentation. What was that for? Why come for a slight taste and overview when there is so much more grander and deeper in his mind that was left untouched? I wish he had spoken more fully or deeper or more somehow. I am left with the frustration of having been told something I felt I knew already but that there still resides something more that I don't know, which he didn't talk about, but could have. Ahh, the grief of lost potential.

His talk was too short. His talk was too superficial. I have not yet decided if the above text will actually be the text I turn in to my teachers. However, I did get to see some of my friends, and yes, I will get extra credit.


mreddie said...

There are so many of the educated and educators that could use a good dose of the knowledge of Proverbs 9:10 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding." ec

thebeloved said...

mreddie--yes... one of the reasons I am glad I am graduating soon!