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Humankind's Limits This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   "That's one small step forman, but one giant leap for mankind." With those words Neil Armstrong becamethe first person to set foot on the surface of Earth's moon. This incredibleaccomplishment, the culmination of centuries of work by mathematicians,physicists, and scientists, poses dramatic questions. If moonwalking is possible,then what else? Is anything truly too difficult for humankind? In short, what areour limitations, if any?

Today technology is not trulyunderstood. Few can comprehend what goes on in a computer or a jet engine, letalone a space shuttle or a stealth bomber. As individuals, most of us do not havethe time or interest to discover the secret of, say, nuclear power. Instead, wespecialize.

Building on a wealth of knowledge, both fact and theory,discovered or proposed by great thinkers over thousands of years, we can advanceto the top of any given field often by our mid-twenties or early thirties. Theconcepts we learn in ninth-grade algebra once took great mathematicians lifetimesto work out. It is the miracle of written communication and shared ideas thatgives us as a society such (perceived, at least) power, and allows our ideas tosurvive the cycle of life and death that we cannot.

Here we have our firsthint of limitation. We as individuals are not able to survive the life and deathcycle that society does. Whether we live to be 120 years old or never see thelight of day, we are all temporary parts of society as a whole. I will leave thequestion of whether the human soul survives the body to the theologians andphilosophers.

There are, to my knowledge, two main views of death. Oneconcept (widely held by Christians) is that death is something the human racewill never conquer. The opposing viewpoint comes from the Humanist and Communistcrowd, who generally view death as an enemy on the retreat - a nuisance that willbe weakened and perhaps eliminated by advances in technology andscience.

While human death is the greatest of the individual'sinhibitions, I have already mentioned the ease with which our ideas outlive us.There are some who say (and are at least partially right) that the death of theindividual does not limit mankind as a collective. Is society on a fast track tosuccess, making evolutionary leaps and bounds, or is there another collar aroundour neck?

A look back at the rise and fall of great cities, nations, andempires point out a disturbing trend. Civilizations flourish, experience a"golden age," then, in every case, go into decline before eventuallydisappearing. The fact that every attempt at perfecting government and societyhas met with dramatic failure makes clear an apparent limitation on mankind. Itseems to me that in nearly every case, the civilization in question succumbed notto outside pressures, but to internal corruption. The problem, the limitingfactor in society, is the nature of humans.

Regarding human nature, thereare two opposing viewpoints as well. On the one side (generally from a religiousor Christian standpoint) are those who believe that human nature has been andalways will be inherently evil. The Humanists and Communists, however, argue thatthe nature of man, while not perfect, is constantly evolving and improving, andwill be perfect at some time in the future. Either viewpoint acknowledges thepresent nature of man to be a limitation to the whole of mankind.

So howfar can we go as a collective? Many said we would never reach the moon, that itwas out of bounds. There are enough people in the world, blindly predicting whatwill and will not happen, what is within our grasp and what is not, where thereare limits and where there is infinite potential. I don't think it is wise toattempt to predict the future, but I do believe that, whether as a whole, or asindividuals, we would be wise to remember what and where our weaknessesare.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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