It still amazes me sometimes how absolutely awesome humanity is—even at its most terrifying. Our greatest inventors, creators, composers, dictators—they all start out the same. An egg. An infant. An awkward child that from the first time it utters “look what I can do, Mommy!” has touched upon the greatness that is humanity. Because look what we can do, Mommy. We all start off roughly the same, and yet the total span of what we become is so incredible. Infinite in its greatness.
Some people grow up to cure “incurable” diseases while others rule nations. Even those that rule nations do so in incredibly different ways—from behind the barrel of a gun or from behind a gold-encased pen. There are an infinite number of people that have come and will come, and an infinite number of things they’ve done. Will do. Are doing. The sheer scope of what humanity is capable of is mindboggling and beautiful.
Sometimes I think that maybe I should try to steer my students away from the bloody dictator that they may become and instead try to guide them towards the life-saving doctor that is equally possible. I have no doubt that the plausibility of either is as present as anything else. While it’s true that only a percentage of a percentage of people become dictators, it is equally true that only a percentage of a percentage of possible people are even born, so why is any other outcome any less likely? However, if I am to influence the greatness of tomorrow, it will not be through censorship. I will not mold my youth by keeping information from them in some ill-conceived notion that censorship can do anything other than limit abilities. The innumerable differences between humans must also be a testament to the infinite potential of each life. Who knows what information or future possibilities may be lost by trimming that greatness in its infancy? By censoring any information at all, we cut down the likelihood that a single thought can blossom into something more. And that only hurts the collective as a whole.
That potential of becoming the strongest through any means necessary sings just as much of humanity’s collective awesomeness as does the list of musicians that have changed the life of a single high school student through one angst-filled song. While it’s possible that the song didn’t end up in the newspaper every day, or even that only a tiny portion of people even heard of it, I stand by the idea that if it gave even a single high school student an idea, then it started the process of greatness and has added to the collective awesomeness that is humanity. In the grand scheme of things, a single raindrop affects the flood as much as any of its colleagues. But people tend to divide, categorize, and prioritize the things that affect us as a whole. A song is often considered “better” than a dictator, but should it be? The evil in our history is just as much of a show of our potential as the good, and while the world may be a better place had murderous individuals not reached their full potential, humanity would not be as great. Some of our best discoveries, ideas, customs, and inventions have come from building over the scars of past awe-inspiring, ultimately “evil” potential. Would the acceptance of other cultures and religion of the current generation be so great without the failures of the previous? (Honestly, I agree with this idea, if not the practice. I am tired of living in a world where progress is built atop the bodies of the dead). The highs that we reach in the future because of the lows of the past are even more marvelous because of the gaps between the greatest of the two points.
But what we WILL become is not what’s important. It’s that we CAN become it. That potential for each person is why humanity is so much more awesome than each of its individual parts. A human can become anything. A human can do anything. We have shown that. Again and again. But a human cannot be everything. It cannot do everything. That is why the collective is important. For what each individual cannot even reach, humanity as a whole can surpass.
I have no doubt that humans are almost divine in their abilities of creation and their potential for greatness. That each of us can create something as truly all-consuming and world changing as an idea puts us next to gods. So what, then, are we when we, as a single organism, build from the intangible into the impossible?
Answer: We are human. And that is amazing.