Every once a while, I look around and marvel at how much we’ve invented as human beings. All these things we take for granted – airplanes to travel, computers and corporation to work, the internet and nation states to connect with one other, sanitary systems to live hygienically – didn’t exist for most of human civilization.
And, yet, ingenious human cooperation and thought made this all possible out of a planet that was, at first glance, just a combination of plants, animals, minerals and water – lots of water.
Now, I hope we’ll do a better job taking care of plants, animals and water than our ancestors did. Our record of treating other living creatures isn’t anything to be proud of. But, I’m hopeful that will change as we’ve come to appreciate (well, some homo sapiens at least) how delicate the balance that holds this wonderful planet together is.
There are three powerful benefits of being able to look at everything and realize how much of it has been invented.
First, it is a reminder that the universe, as we know it, is malleable. It was invented by human beings like us and we can, and should, make it better.
Second, all of the stuff we generally worry about – work, status, financial security – are inventions of human ingenuity. That’s not to say they don’t matter. They do – in that they help us sustain ourselves and feel like we contribute. But, we ought to take our attachment to invented systems – sales targets, release schedules, promotion timelines – with a pinch of salt. In the long run, they matter far less than we think they do. In the really long run, it is our connections and impact on fellow humans that ends up mattering more.
Finally, most of what’s around us was invented to help us lead happier and more fulfilling lives. This includes aspects of the physical world but also includes the conversation around mental constructs that are unique to this age – purpose, passion, etc. If we’re not finding happiness and fulfillment, it is worth pausing and saying to ourselves – if it’s all invented, it is probably worth inventing a way to approach life that makes us happy and fulfilled.