Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is.
— Albert Camus
The roots of the many paradoxes that buffet modern man lie in the materialistic soil in which he has sown the bitter seeds of his primal instincts .He has purged his mind of precious moral values and believes that as long as his material world glitters he should remain happy — no matter what immoralities engulf him. He has drained his world of its spiritual content and reduced it to a dark domain. The light of the scriptures, which was once a powerful beam that illuminated has slowly thinned out. The glow still there, but it can shine forth in luminescence only when it gets the dry vernal wood of piety to burn itself. It is bound to be kindled away in the damp materialistic cloister. As Primo Levi says, “I am constantly amazed by man’s inhumanity to man”.(If This Is a Man / The Truce).
Our truths are within us, deep inside where we place them for later discovery. We are now at a time when we know that we have to be true to ourselves. This is the way we planned it when we came here. The great philosopher Thomas Merton echoes the same message: “No matter how ruined man and world may seem to be and no matter how terrible man’s despair may become, as long as he continues to be a man his very humanity continues to tell him that life has meaning. From the core of our being, we desire happiness. In our own experiences we find that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. As we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development. The key is to develop inner peace. Peace is the essence of spirituality. It is integral to creation. Dante wrote, “In God’s will is our peace.” Peace has a cost. We are willing to make enormous sacrifices for war and the people dying in the war are deemed glorious. But if one dies for the cause of peace, we consider him abnormal.
With the powerful weapons at his disposal and the growing destructive instinct in him, man has become the greatest threat to his own survival. In the zoo at Lusaka, there is a cage where the notice reads: “The world’s most dangerous animal.” Inside the cage, there is no animal but a mirror where you see yourself. Jonathan Swift once wrote: “Man is the most pernicious little race of ominous vermin that nature ever suffered to walk across the face of the earth.” The most severe indictment of man has however, come from Bernard Shaw. Comparing man’s nature with the beast, he says: “I don’t think much of a lion tamer. At least, during the time he is inside the cage he is free from man.”
Einstein’s views on the moral decay of man are as relevant today as they were when they were spoken in 1938: “One misses the elementary reaction against injustice and for justice — that reaction which in the long run represents man’s only protection against a relapse into barbarism… Even as the world has grown into a huge, monstrous globe of humanity, it has become scarce of men who would be considered men in the real sense.”