In this, the 10th anniversary of One Sky One World, praise is due to the many thousands of sponsors and participants who have manifested simply, yet profoundly, their deeply felt concern for world peace and reclamation of the earth's environment. Perhaps, it is not too extreme at this time to broach the notion that OSOW could become the first holiday to be celebrated by people worldwide, irrespective of nationality, religion, race, or culture.
OSOW is a time when community and individual peace and recognition of global cooperation pervades. Could such a manifestation eventually come to be a universal recognition of the victory of humanity over itself? Can people stop killing each other long enough to celebrate world peace? Will people enact a ritual which will dissolve distinctions rather than enshrine them?
Rituals are to reinforce bonds - bonds of the past, present and the future. Ritual celebration connects people with forbearers, cohorts and provides a sense of destiny and purpose. They even seem to have evolved to become biologically important - the human parallel to what animals do to bond, such as, mutual grooming. Repetition of rituals enhances our perception of who we are in time and space.
However, rituals also imply an adversarial relationship. There is, and has been in the past, "them and us". Rituals celebrate peoples' victory over someone or something trying to bring them down. They commemorate successful passage through terrible trials, tragedy or tyranny; transcended, endured and conquered.
Can a ritual bond all humankind against the threat of itself as its own worst enemy? What OSOW is doing is asking people to celebrate the idea that "we're still here despite ourselves."
Sadly, great victories for humanity go largely unheralded. We don't even celebrate overcoming smallpox, polio or Europe's victory over the plague. Humanity finds it easier to hunker down against another human force. It's hard to hate a microbe. If microbes were men we would probably have a holiday celebrating our victory over them. It is difficult to celebrate an idea, especially when the idea is in passage and far from being realized. Rituals pertain to having reached the other side. Can you celebrate a hope as yet unfulfilled?
A ritual of the whole just might be an oxymoron. Rituals have been based on local tribal (national, cultural and religious) distinctions. Is it possible to get people to celebrate triumph over our comfortable distinctions in order to establish a ritual of the whole? Us against them is a powerful high; us against us is not. Can a ritual be established to suppress what seems to be part of our own internal nature? This would seem to be a possibility more remote than celebrating victory over microbes. We are asking people to be able to give up an important sense of nobility, i.e., to fight for your block, your country, your gang, your company, etc. The need for social cohesion seems to be built into our limbic system. Sectarianism is a response to this need. It is easy to ask people to put themselves on the line for home and country; much more difficult than for our planet earth.
Evolution is a mysterious process. Out of nothing incredibly complex human brains contemplate and create existence. Evolution metabolizes chaos into order. That humans have evolved out of primordial ooze seems very improbable. Human evolution seems to be no longer physical, but rather, social and cultural. Human evolution is manifested through institutions. In order to survive, humanity must evolve from those who recognize distinctions and see the world as "us against them", to those who see themselves as global citizens. The fact that humankind cannot see how this will happen, does not mean it cannot happen. If humans are around in 10,000 years, it will be because they did evolve.
Chaos is orderly but unpredictable. Everything starts from somewhere. A butterfly flaps its wings creating a slight atmospheric disturbance and setting in motion events which can ultimately result in a hurricane on the other side of the earth. So let the butterfly flap its wings and the kites fly in the wind and maybe a little idea will cascade through the chaotic grounds of consciousness and emerge as a new and universal paradigm in the minds of humankind. Let us climb down from the Tower of Babel, tear it down and recycle its ruins into a playground suitable for all children of the earth.
Then we can say, "We saw the enemy, they are us and we survived despite ourselves."
Norman Linke is an international economist educated at the University of Chicago and Stanford University. A songwriter and supporter of OSOW from its inception, he wrote the OSOW anthem in 1987.