If we take a survey on any particular subject or issue, of the attitudes, behavior, and beliefs of a representative sample of the 6.8 billion people on Earth, do a statistical distribution with our data and plot the results on a graph, we come up with something that we refer to as a bell curve.
The area in the center of the curve is known as the normal range of behavior. Off to the right and left are standard deviations from the normal range. Beyond these standard deviations are more extreme deviations from the normal range. What does all this mean? It means that whatever the issue, the people on one side of the curve will have very different views than those on the opposite side. This results in opposition, conflict, and strife, up to and including wars. This bell curve, a snapshot of humanity, is a remarkable phenomenon. It represents one of the greatest challenges in life: how to bridge our differences. This very predictable pattern contributes to, and, in fact, practically guarantees, life’s multiple interpersonal problems, instability, and uncertainty.
Further contributing to life’s instability and uncertainty is the fickleness of nature (natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, tornadoes, cyclones, forest fires, floods, and droughts). Also contributing are a vast number of illnesses that we contract and from which we suffer, and an extraordinary array of accidents that occur regularly. In addition, because we have so many people and are a young species that has been largely ignorant of the physical reality and the behavioral demands of the reality in which we exist (and which enables us to exist) we have created an interrelated web of life-threatening environmental problems.
We are depleting our resources: our forests, fisheries, range lands, croplands, and plant and animal species. We are destroying the biological diversity on which evolution thrives (this is being called the sixth great wave of extinction in the history of life on earth, different from the others in that it is caused not by external events, but by us). With powerful new electrical and diesel pumping techniques, we are draining our aquifers and lowering our water tables. We are systemically polluting our air, water, and soil, and consequently our food chain. We are depleting the stratospheric ozone that shields us from harmful ultraviolet radiation. And, we are experiencing symptoms of global warming: heat waves, devastating droughts, dying forests, accelerated species extinction, dying coral reefs, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, more frequent and intense storms, and a more rapid spread of diseases.
This thing we call life, far from certain, is a fragile phenomenon. It is up and down like a seesaw on which we are sitting.. In our theatres, where we have for thousands of years told the stories of our lives, we have for symbols the classic masks of comedy and tragedy that portray joy and sorrow. Life has always been this way.