Posted by: Calmseas (Mike) | January 16, 2009

The Human Condition

planecrash14

Seeing that airplane sitting in the middle of the Hudson River off Manhattan yesterday, I couldn’t help but contrast it to another airplane incident in New York City some seven years ago. These incidents represent anchor points at the opposite ends of a long and broad continuum. The “Miracle on the Hudson,” as it is being called today, displays in full grandeur the possibilities that humankind have for good in this world. At the other end, 9/11 shows us exactly the utter depravity of which our species is capable.

Both of these incidents involved airplanes; both of them happened in the skies over New York City; both are windows on particular segments of this vast plain of existence that we call the human condition.  Yet one shows us the empathy, compassion, and heroism that points to all that is good in humanity, while the other shows the disconnect, the cruelty, and the lechery of all that is evil.

There was certainly nothing evil about the situation yesterday.  Yet, ironically, there were uncountable acts of human good that ensued in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 as people went to the aid of others in often selfless ways.  Both of these incidents, in their own ways, can teach us much about good and evil and about humankind’s capacity for both.  And both, I believe, point to good as humanity’s default condition.

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Responses

  1. I loved this post, Mike. I must admit, sometimes I despair that humanity will ever achieve its potential. After all, expression of the possibility doesn’t mean much if it isn’t acted upon. Perhaps I buy into the Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang a little more than I should. It seems like no matter how much good we seem to find in the world around us, there is always that horrible counterpoint we can never completely overcome. I would like to think you’re right, that good is humanity’s “default condition.”

    I watched the news yesterday when Jeff Kolodjay, one of the passengers, first related the events on board the plane to the press. I thought he was remarkably composed and well-spoken considering the ordeal they’d just encountered.

    I think we were all relieved to hear a story with a happy ending.


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