Standing on a pile of corpses

[In the dark­est day of 2018, it is proper to think about the dark­ness that sur­rounds us]

When we think about the his­tory of hu­man­ity, we fo­cus on its high­lights.

Gal­ileo dis­cov­er­ing the moons of Jupiter. Ed­ward Jen­ner de­vel­op­ing the first pox vac­cine. Emmy Noether set­ting the math­e­mat­i­cal foun­da­tion of mod­ern physics.

We stand on the shoulders of gi­ants, we say, that have ele­vated us over the clouds so we can see the stars above.

I be­lieve a more apt metaphor is that we stand on a pile of name­less corpses.

Be­cause for each great hu­man that made it to the his­tory books, a mil­lion have been for­got­ten. And each of them, know­ingly or un­know­ingly, it is part of our legacy.

And most of them are dead.

100 billion hu­mans have been born and died, most in undig­nified cir­cum­stances of sick­ness and age, and most by no choice of their own. They are now part of the pile of corpses.

7 billion peo­ple re­main al­ive. And even though our lives are much bet­ter than those of the peo­ple from 1000 years ago, from 100 years ago and even from 10 years ago, we still suffer.

Many of our liv­ing kin live in sick­ness and hunger. Even amongst the most for­tu­nate we wres­tle with men­tal ill­ness and ac­ci­dents and the plights of ag­ing.

We do not stand proud, but afraid and re­signed to be­come yet an­other layer of the pile of corpses.

For not a sin­gle hu­man lives free of the tyranny of death. We can choose to em­brace it early, but we can­not still post­pone it, not for much.

And so the pile of corpses grows, too fast for us to prop­erly mourn the fallen.

There is a glim­mer of hope, that the pile of corpses will stop grow­ing as we come of age as a civ­i­liza­tion. That we will stop the non con­sen­sual suffer­ing we ex­pe­rience, and death will be no more for those who want to defy it.

That we will have, for the first time in his­tory, time to breathe and re­flect and re­mem­ber all the name­less peo­ple who came be­fore. To prop­erly pon­der with­out hav­ing to con­stantly strug­gle over our sur­vival, and leav­ing be­hind ex­treme suffer­ing.

To fi­nally give a proper burial to the pile of corpses we stand on, and de­cide what to do with our piece of the uni­verse.

But we are not guaran­teed this happy end­ing—the book of hu­man­ity might sud­denly end, with­out us hav­ing a chance to dic­tate the fi­nal words.

The worst we have en­dured is not a good pre­dic­tor of the worst that it is to come, and for all we know the hor­rors ahead may be the ones that end us.

And then the pile of corpses will stop grow­ing, but so will our civ­i­liza­tion.

And all there will be left is an inan­i­mate pile of corpses float­ing through the cos­mos, sur­rounded by the cold and un­car­ing void.

Thanks to Tam Borine for proofread­ing the text. This text was used as part of a 2018 pri­vate sec­u­lar sols­tice cel­e­bra­tion in Madrid, Spain.

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