July 2009

Man is basically a good and noble being generally, at least in my opinion and only under agreeable circumstances. Under extreme pressures, however, most people will crack, if not go temporarily insane, for such is the frailty that is human nature.

In the context of comfortable offices, lovely homes, promising careers and hilarious parties… talks about man’s innate goodness or tendency for evil is brushed aside as a mood spoiler. If I could have my way, I’d place this famous etching where the in-crowd can always see them…

Mealtime in the trenches In this ultra realistic etching by German artist Otto Dix, a lone soldier gulps down a hasty meal apparently indifferent to the human skeleton trapped in the frozen landscape beside him.

The work portrays not only the suffering that soldiers had to endure but also the ominous effect such conditions could have on a person's dignity. It springs from Dix’s intimate, if not carnal, knowledge of war and its dehumanizing effects.

In the 1960s Dix said, 'War reduces mankind to the state of beasts, with its hunger, vermin, mud and insane noises'. Who can argue with experience?

In his book “The Tipping Point”, Malcolm Gladwell explores how this human frailty operates even in less extreme situations. Calling it “the power of context”, Gladwell depicts how human behavior is strongly influenced by environment. How even little things, like the prevalence of broken windows in New York, could rouse an epidemic of petty crimes and general disorder.

In a world going crazier by the day, how humanity will fare?

The Bible speaks of darker times ahead; “tribulation such as has not been nor ever shall be” . Scientists likewise warn us that, one way or another, the world will someday end; i.e, through a lethal flu pandemic, global warming, a comet hitting Earth, the big crunch, black hole, or the explosion of our own sun. The possibilities for the end, it seems, are endless!

Now would you rather forget all these and party while you still can? Or would you rather search life’s meaning and make peace with God while you still have your dignity intact?

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