Let’s imagine what a visitor from some distant planet would think of human history. Let us look down on the museum of human history from afar, with you, Lily, as one of the exhibits.
The visitor would almost certainly conclude that humans are very topsy turvy. They are obviously just animals, yet they seem to think that they are special. They cannot decide whether to prefer their minds or their bodies. They cannot decide whether to prefer their senses or their thoughts. They think of themselves as immortal, yet they die. They think of themselves as lords of creation, yet they are a prey to very many other species. They have excellent minds, but this just leads them into folly and unreason. They claim to be the sole judges of truth, but spend much of their time lying. They are loving, yet they spend much time hating and undermining each other.
Humans are co-operative creatures, yet they are also intensely selfish. They can create great art, but leave the world an ugly mess. With their amazing technologies they generate great wealth, yet most of them live in degrading poverty. They enjoy peace but constantly kill. They strive to be equal, yet invent and sustain endless inequalities between classes, religious groups, men and women. They preach tolerance and understanding, yet they torture each other for their beliefs.
The distant observer might well be confused, agreeing that ‘Man is an embodied paradox, a bundle of contradictions.’ Especially puzzling is the huge gap between human potential, the ability to make a rich, lovely and fulfilling life on earth and the actual miseries human beings create for themselves and other species.