We -being humanity itself, far and wide; large and incalculable- are much like a single living organism in many ways (as I’ve already established). I’d now like to take a moment to step back and expand further upon this notion, trying to visualize what it really means to us, before once more moving onward.
Imagine all of our history, entailing all men, women and children who have ever walked this earth, looking up and asking ‘Why?’ Imagine it – all of them, and us, as one. Human culture, human knowledge, human wisdom, human understanding, human society, and yes, human religion. It is far too easy to take a microscopic view, seeing ourselves as singular – to imagine that we are little different as individuals from Johan the sailor two centuries prior. We were born, we were kids, we learned, we aged, became adults, began careers and families, age further still, then pass from this world. In the end, we all end up the same.
Johan the Sailor’s grave site might well be side-by-side with your own: his casket made out of wood not dissimilar from your own, his marker made out of the same granite, the same dimensions, mayhap even the same shape denoting your faith in the form of a cross.
So yes, viewing us as individuals, the more things change… But plainly Johan’s life is starkly different from your own. He never had electricity, air conditioning, supermarkets, courtship on strange devices connected by wires, most certainly lacking a speedboat to cross the seas in days versus months. This is the key – we as humanity must be viewed macroscopically, as we progress and advance. The individual will always be the individual, little changed. But it is humanity at large, the accomplishments and endeavors of us all, the sum of all our knowledge and understanding, and even, at the risk of slipping into the ways of old, the invisible links which connect us all as one – this is the proper way to understand yourself. Only by viewing yourself through the lens of others, understanding your place by understanding all of our places, may we thus hope to gain the insight and realizations that so many have sought over the ages.
With that in mind, now attempt to encapsulate the entire history of mankind as a continuous, solitary creature. There is no us or them – just as there is no now and no then. Humanity is like a star, comprised of billions and billions of individuals over the course of untold eons. Individuals which can be separated and then viewed by themselves, yet only when they come together and are seen united as one do they have genuine meaning or purpose. To prevent coming off as too transcendental, it may be boiled down to this – a hydrogen atom is a magnificent thing. But hydrogen is hydrogen is hydrogen. Throughout time, hydrogen atoms are and always will be atoms of hydrogen.
Now, take 1.618033988749894848 × 10⁴³³ atoms of hydrogen, and you have yourself a star – something which changes over time as a result of changes to the individuals, yet the individuals stay the same (atoms are atoms.) Something that doesn’t even remotely resemble what constitutes it, atoms, and so is utterly different and far more complex. Over longer periods still, two atoms of hydrogen unite to become atoms of helium through nuclear fusion, this being the process which alters and ages the star and remarkably easy to compare with our own means of reproduction/continuing our species beyond our own lifespans.
Those same invisible bonds that tie us together, might be seen as being much like a star’s equilibrium – whereby their collective immense mass generates a gravitational field which unites them, at the same time their individual pressure prevents a collapse unto themselves. Working in harmony, forces at both the microscopic, singular level (pressure) and macroscopic, collective level (gravity) produces a perfect balance between the one and the all.
Just like the Sun may have a localized outburst that begets a sunspot which unleashes a CME, so too may small subsets at various points in time radically alter the singular creature that is humankind. But the effects of the one cause ripples throughout the entire structure, the so-called Butterfly Effect rarely more aptly utilized than here. Keep in mind this focus and importance regarding the individual in relation to mankind collectively (aka. civilization itself), as we will be returning to this perspective again somewhat later on.