by Heather Mercer
Last week, two men froze to death in Toronto. The first was a homeless man who was found huddled in a truck in a west end shipping yard. The second man perished in a bus shelter at the corner of Yonge and Dundas – the busiest intersection in Canada, three blocks from where I work.
Don’t humans seem especially fragile at this time of year?
Louis CK jokes that it seems like we humans don’t belong here on earth. There’s a small window of temperature that we find comfortable; anything above or below that is unbearably hot or cold, as seen in last year’s Godawful Polar Vortex (I think that’s the official term). We don’t have fur or woolly hair to protect us from the elements, so we used to kill other animals who were more equipped for this earth and wear their bloody carcasses around. That’s how impractical our human suits are.
It’s good for me to remember that we are unlikely survivors in the evolutionary struggle. That we are, in fact, fragile creatures. Winter helps me remember that we are just one ice storm away from dying carbon-monoxide deaths via an outdoor barbeque used indoors.
Why is this good for me to remember?
Well, friends—okay, a lot of you are strangers, but I feel better about sharing this secret if I pretend we’re all friends here…
Sometimes I despair about humanity.
Sometimes… Sometimes I think we should go extinct. That it would be better for the earth, for all the other animals, and even for space (yes, space!) if we ceased to exist.
Because, let’s face it: we kind of ruin everything. We destroy habitats, we pollute, we cut down ancient rainforests to make toilet paper to wipe our asses. We kill each other over philosophical disagreements and over wallets. We create nuclear weapons and clone things just because we can. We poison OUR OWN FOOD AND WATER SUPPLY to make a dime. What kind of species does that?!
Is it because of our fragility, our vulnerability, our not-of-this-earth-ness that we try so hard to be powerful and in control?
Or are we, the human race, just a nineteen year old boy whose frontal lobe hasn’t developed, so we don’t “get” consequences?
It’s pretty easy to go to a dark, dark place when you start weighing the value of humanity’s incredible works of art, architecture, music, and poetry against the wanton destruction that we seem to be incapable of stopping. It’s not that we’re inherently bad (despite what they try to tell you in church!), we just can’t seem to help ourselves.
Yet the winter, with its bitter cold, reminds me that it’s sort of a miracle that we even exist.
Today I met a friend’s four-month-old baby for the first time, and I couldn’t stop touching his sweet, soft skin. He’s so new. His shell hasn’t even begun to harden.
If we, with our weird, naked skin, can survive on this earth at all, maybe anything is possible.
It’s not inconceivable that we could evolve – learn to live within natural limits, in balance with the rest of the world; become kinder, more compassionate. We kind of have to. Because despite my occasional and ill-advised fantasies of mass extinction, humanity is here and we’ve put ourselves In Charge.
You and I, and the rest of humankind – we’re so very unlikely. There’s some kind of magic in that.