Human nature never ceases to amaze me.
It’s even more baffling when I see it manifesting in myself. It’s like, I know I’m a part of the “human race” in my head, but I’m so often watching other humans from a third person perspective that this obvious truth bowls me over every time I come into contact with it.
I was at a water park with my family the other day, enjoying my time in the skin peeling Florida sun, when out of the corner of my eye I notice other people noticing something.
People seem to be looking in a certain direction all around me and a few people are even pointing. Naturally, my siblings and I turn to see what’s so noteworthy. In the distance, maybe half a mile away, there is a thick, cloud of smoke rising. This was no cloud of barbeque grill smoke, mind you. It was huge, charcoal black and aggressively billowing. Similar to the amount of smoke you would expect from a large car fire.
That’s what we speculated it was to begin with. It was the least threatening scenario we could come up with. People never want to assume the worst when something is happening within their realm of comfort. It’s too inconvenient.
But with the Orlando terrorist attack fresh in the nation’s mind, I couldn’t help but assume so myself after a minute or two.
What if this was another terrorist attack?
What if there were similar explosions going on in the area and this wasn’t even the only one?
What if the water park was the next target?
I mean, come on. How ironic would that be? A place literally filled with water and crawling with carefree Americans catching fire? If ever there was a way to send the signal that no matter where you are, you are not safe from ISIS, that would be it in my opinion.
Turns out, it wasn’t a terrorist attack. It was a construction fire from which, thankfully, nobody seems to have been badly injured.
But you know what really amazed me? The reactions the situation prompted for the people in the water park. Most people’s reaction was to go toward the danger and I thought to myself, “Only humans would take such a course of action. Any other animal on the planet would naturally run like hell in the other direction.”
I kept thinking about it and realized I couldn’t make up my mind as to why that was. Saying it’s because mankind naturally feels the desire to rescue those in need sounded awfully altruistic. Saying it’s because mankind naturally feels the desire to excavate uncharted areas of knowledge sounded optimistically philosophical.
In the end, I settled with the conclusion that human beings are just that freaking nosy. That it’s not a desire to help those in need or finding answers to the questions of life. Maybe we’re just so curious that we fight against our better judgement and move toward risky situations out of nosiness.
Almost like a “What’s going on? What’s going on? I wanna find out so I can tweet to my friends that I knew it before them” kind of thing.
That we want to know just to know. Not even that we want to do anything further about the information than reporting it. We’ll leave that kind of motivated action to someone else.
What’s more is the reaction of the water park goers after about five minutes of fruitless inquiry into the situation. They just shrugged their shoulders and continued riding water slides. I chuckled disbelievingly and muttered to my brother, “Just shows you human nature. People are potentially being blown up and they’re riding water slides.”
Then it occurred to me that this isn’t anything different than usual. People are always being potentially blown up or hurt.
In fact, it’s a statistical certainty that there is always someone in pain at any given moment in time.
Whether it be via paper cut, slavery, or crushing poverty, there are always people suffering and most of us manage to go on with our lives as if nothing is happening. I guess it’s just a survival thing. We’d all go insane if we stayed aware of the suffering of every individual in the world at all times, but it’s kind of sobering isn’t it?
When push comes to shove, we can’t bring ourselves to care unless the suffering directly impacts us.
We don’t truly bring ourselves to care unless we see a smoke cloud swelling in the distance.
As I watched the smoke settle down and the fire trucks spray tremendous blasts of water in the direction of the problem, my mind floated to thoughts of people who have survived things like nuclear bombs and the terror they must have felt having had their glass bubble of personal security shattered.
How must it feel to go from watching terror to being in the middle of it?
I almost wish I could say I’d like to find out as an experiment in human experience. That I’d like to do what it takes to be brought closer to my fellow human being. But in truth, I don’t.
We take it so much for granted how richly sheltered and 1st world the United States is. How is it that the RAM space of collective human memory is so small?
Why do we always have to fall down in order to remember that we picked ourselves up in the first place?