What if your decision alone determined the fate of humanity?
One night long ago - back in the days when I was an 80-hour-per-week hack journalist and living in snow country - I had this strange dream.
This night was cold and clear and I was bundled up with my wife under several quilts in a drafty farmhouse.
In my dream I was standing before a group of white apparitions that appeared to be human and bore a faint resemblance to Snow White's Seven Dwarfs. They were seated at a long table apparently waiting for my testimony with an annoyed degree of impatience.
Dressed in a dark blue robe with a peaked hat and a broom, a white-haired woman whose name my memory recalls now as Bibbitybobbityboo blessed me with stardust from her magic wand and told me that I would always work for my mother, because she was the real vehicle that brought me into this world, and that I should strive to maintain that awesomely lovely purpose in any and all endeavors I chose.
Yet the white misty images of robed men seated behind the long table covered by a white tablecloth seemed to snicker at her remarks, and quickly began their own interrogation.
"You fancy yourself a young and intrepid explorer, ay?" one gnomelike curmudgeon bellowed from the far end of the table. "Tell me then, what would you do if you discovered that the collective life force of the human species was a lethal menace to all other life in the universe, and had to be extinguished in order to preserve the greater galactic civilization? Which side would you choose, knowing that your species could go instantly extinct upon the mere whimsy of your own addled perceptions, and yours alone?"
Operating on the principle of never being afraid of something you absolutely may not avoid, I responded: "First I'd ask to see the evidence .... "
And with a teeth rattling roar a gigantic voice that sounded like Zeus himself rumbled over the assembled fog scene.
"Because the human race, quivering in its own existential fear, has betrayed its own consciousness by letting fear of the unknown metastasize into a devil's chorus of diseased songs by which humans are killing off all life on their own planet.
"And worse, from our point of view, this plague of fearful murderers is already creeping outward into its own solar system. The infestation must be stopped for the safety of many others."
Terrified, I instantly began to think, do I trust what I know? The umpire in me asked: "How do I make this call?"
Why don't I trust what I know? Because I believe in double-checking, checking back to see if important decisions have been right, and fixing correctible errors. I've gained more from just that psychological maneuver than any other thing in life. Be sure of what you're doing. And every time I've checked back, I've corrected errors that I hadn't previously realized were harming me.
But to decide the fate of humanity with a single yes-or-no answer requires an examination much bigger than poor old nobody me can calculate. That's why my secret weapon has always been to ask somebody else for their opinion, because we can't live without the herd, and besides the real beauty in our lives always derives from our love for other people. Only certain types whom you know all too well spend their lives doing nothing but taking.
But in this situation, the best I could do was recall from memory what the masters taught me. I hoped to use the power of the world's classic sources - especially those which are not taught in schools (which always try to blunt out independent thought with an acceptable retinue of opinions which all support the positions of the well-monied status quo which profits from the master/slave paradigm) - to out argue these heavenly heavies who I now confronted in my dream.
So I answered his question as best I could.
"Stand securely in your own truth, and be an example of hospitality and judgment to others. Assuage the fear but don't forget to hear the message. In this way you may perceive clearly and judge fairly. In this way could humans yet become a shining example of fairness and hospitality, a beacon of liberty and love that shines throughout our solar system and beyond."
A huge wraith possessed of some kind of mechanical recording device (oh wait, that was an eight-track boom box) snarled from the opposite end of the table: "Don't be disingenuous with us, you glib fool! We're talking about the human race, the one that slaughters itself and everything else over and over and feasts on the gore. Vampirism is the human religion, as you drink the blood of your savior and proudly wallow in the waving flags that cover the bodies of your obliterated children. Your vaunted United States of America develops plagues that it sends to Africa to exterminate tribe after tribe, and now even these same demons send diseases from airplanes over all the cities of America.
"The human species is now spreading deadly radioactivity in probes exploring your solar system, and the Galactic Council has decided to determine the fate of your world and your species based on the opinion of a single human soul. Since you've made so much superficial noise advocating a society based on peace, justice, and honesty, you're it!
"Time's up. What's the answer?"
It was, I reflected, like entering the bardo plane. First choice? Go to the light. Everyone's automatically eligible. Everyone in the world has a free pass to heaven the minute they check out. Of course that's not what the priests tell you. If they did, they wouldn't have jobs.
But that reflexive step into the light is not as easy as you think, because after a few years on this delightful earth plane you get entangled with ties that even after death you can't let go of. I mean, when you tell the perfect person that you'll love them forever, that stands. That's, as a matter of fact, the strongest force in the universe. Not even the power of a million suns can wipe that out.
A small, diplomatic voice from near the center of the table spoke softly: "Humans have not learned the lesson that there is only one life and it is shared by all, and each only for a time. The real reason you pile up trinkets is that you hide behind your false belief that you are immortal, when science has proven beyond all doubt that nothing is immortal, not even the universe itself, which was likely calved from yet another universe in the form of a white hole."
Pray all you want, I said silently. Nothing lasts forever, not even the clumsy and diseased human perception of God. Then when your forever is gone, you'll have a better view of all the people you're killing. It might even horrify you, if you're human.
A tall white wraith with a menacing female voice interrupted impatiently. "The point, fellow gentle spirits, is to determine whether human life is an untenable threat to all other life in the universe, and therefore must be exterminated as the primitive and thoughtless vermin they are."
"It seems clear to all here assembled that the human failure to have genuine faith in the goodness and fairness of the archetypal processes of the universe has resulted in this twisted fear that death is some mysterious place you must take magic potions and utter pious phrases to avoid. The insanity is caused by trying to avoid something that nothing in the universe can avoid."
At that point, I took control.
"Humans are animals frightened of their own shadows because they cannot explain who they are or where they came from. It's almost if we stepped out of a dream and into history, which - don't forget - all these creatures are just metaphorical constructions of projections from our own imaginations.
"In the struggle for survival, savage reflexes are good. But what we hoped to establish was a flowery sanctuary for our well being. That's not what we have, because we deny we are hungry animals at a certain point on the food chain. At the top, mostly."
Another voice spoke from the among the white apparitions at the table.
"So you're saying that for humans, justice is secondary to survival. It is that way for all animals on planet Earth, in fact. So this is exactly the same question we asked you: Once you know that humanity is a pox to countless trillions of other beings, simply because of its thoughtlessness wrapped in fearful symmetry, what alternative is there to a functional eradication program."
"Then the only possible chance to save our species from the collective wrath of all the higher civilizations in our region of our galaxy is to consciously realize the effects we have on things we don't even know about. And we can only do that with a philosophy that is truly everything we should be: loving, discerning, and competent."
A misty white voice quickly answered:
"Precisely what humans have never done and seem incapable of doing. You can't do that before you realize that all tribes, all nations, and all worlds must seek peace, justice and honesty. Humans are known as a species that squanders life because it is so afraid of death. They clearly don't have the courage, realism or forthrightness to be actualized members of greater galactic society. So the decision should be easy for you. Pull the plug."
And there I stood, wanting to defend the human race but realizing there was a larger, more important life force in the universe that was the automatic owner of all our possessions and the creator of all we have ever had. It saddens me to know we must throw away all this beautiful potential as our human family on planet Earth continues its slide into madness, disease, and extinction.
"You are the emissary," barked a voice from the table. "Time is short. Tell them that."
"I promise I will," I said.
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