Trouble Aboard Spaceship Earth

THAT magnificent vehicle Spaceship Earth, rocketing along through the vast unknown at the incomprehensible speed of 65,000 miles an hour, continued in 1972 to be plagued with troubles during its year-long journey of 580,000,000 miles. Distressingly, the perplexed officers and crew, while aware that there is something seriously amiss aboard the ship, still seemed unable to diagnose the trouble and thus have been unable to initiate satisfactory corrective measures. And their confusion has been communicated to their helpless passengers who, in turn, have themselves become fearful as to the fate of the vehicle.

Not that there was anything wrong with the manufacture of the ship itself. It was marvelously designed and flawlessly constructed by its Maker, who unconditionally guaranteed it forever against all defects of workmanship. It was precisely projected on its prescribed course, and was holding perfectly to that course when it was turned over to the management of its crew. It was bountifully stocked with every provision needful for the sustenance and well-being of the crew and passengers all during the long journey—pure air and water, joyous light, food, clothing, shelter.

Starvation—in the Midst of Plenty!

No, the trouble is not with the spaceship itself. The trouble is mainly with the officers and crew in charge of the ship; and to a lesser extent the fault also lies with the passengers on board. For instance, and unbelievable as it may seem, while most of those aboard are well supplied with food, others of their fellow passengers are suffering hunger—some actually starving, in fact! There is an abundance of food aboard, but through inhuman unconcern for others it is not being shared on an equitable basis.

And even more incredibly, the ample but limited supply of oxygen upon which the life of each one on the ship depends is being permitted to suffer contamination! Indeed, even the precious water and food supplies are heedlessly becoming polluted because of failure to take the simple precautions necessary to preserve healthful conditions within the ship. As a result, the passengers have become restive, frightened, and finally rebellious as they observe the futile efforts of those in charge to avoid what seems like impending disaster to all.

Well, so much for the parable. At best, an allegory has but limited application. But if it has assisted somewhat in grasping the fact that, for better or worse, all mankind is in this situation together, it will have served its purpose.

“As a Man Thinketh in His Heart …”

As we daily scan the various forms of news media our minds are endlessly bombarded, often visually and gruesomely, with evidence of man’s inhumanity to man. We are confronted daily with man’s selfishness, his cruelty toward his fellow beings, his avarice. We witness his almost total unconcern with the destruction of vital areas of the environment. On every side nations and individuals are largely immersed in their own selfish concerns, in efforts to improve their own well-being as nations or as individuals, with little or no thought for the consequences of their actions on their fellow pilgrims on this wonderful earth.

Our Shrunken Planet

Trite it may be to liken the planet Earth to a spaceship; but the simile is not without merit. One astute observer recently referred to the world as a “global village.” And how like a village, in many respects, is the world today! For today in this world which has been so strikingly shrunken by jet planes, telephones, telegraph, and television we are in fact all neighbors of one another. As in a small village, we all know pretty much what is going on about us, and all about each other. And again as in a village, and more importantly, that which affects the well-being of one affects the comfort and prosperity of all. Mankind is beginning at long last to sense that the destiny of any given nation is inextricably involved with the destiny of the whole world.

Well then, just what has been going on in the “village” this year? There was, of course, the carry-over into 1973 of most of the irksome problems that harassed the world in the year before, along with some intensification of many of these difficulties. The appalling carnage continued in Vietnam, although hopeful indications developed that this may ere long be terminated. In Northern Ireland the frightful religious war showed no signs of decelerating, as the deep-rooted hatred between the combatants worked to circumvent all efforts at conciliation. It is a sad historical fact that no atrocities, no heartless cruelties exceed those that are committed in the name of so-called Christianity.

In Africa the State of Uganda, itself but recently liberated from foreign oppression, engaged in its own brand of brutality by ruthlessly expelling from its soil many Asians who had for generations made that country their homeland. In South America the ruling military powers invited the exiled former President Juan Peron—his considerable political and personal sins forgiven—to return to Argentina because they found themselves unable to cope with the chaotic economic situation that had developed in that nation. Ironically, it was this same military clique that forced Senor Peron to flee the country seventeen years earlier under implications of gross corruption.

Eight Hundred Million Neighbors!

These, to be sure, are but a random handful of the items of “old business” carried over from the years before. But on top of these there have been superimposed a number of new and extraordinary occurrences in the year just closed. High on the list of these was the unprecedented visit in February, while he was still in office, of a President of the United States to China; emphasizing, once more, that this is indeed a “time … the like of which was not since there was a nation.”—Dan. 12:1

Mr. Nixon’s decision to journey to that exotic land revealed considerable insight regarding a truth that the whole world must some day come to recognize and embrace, and that is that on this tiny planet all people are in fact neighbors; and Mr. Nixon feels that 800,000,000 neighbors constitute much too large a part of the neighborhood to be ignored. Their lives and well-being are inescapably intertwined with the lives and well-being of the rest of humankind, and it is Mr. Nixon’s hope that improved political and commercial relations between these two great nations may help to lessen international frictions and enhance the quality of life in all countries.

With the general approbation of the China visit still ringing in his ears, Mr. Nixon finessed the diplomatic advantages gained from that coup by journeying in May to Moscow. He had but shortly before ordered the renewed heavy bombing of North Vietnam and the mining of Hanoi’s essential harbor, Haiphong, and as a result the consummation of the Russian visit was for a time in doubt. But the powers in the Kremlin swallowed hard, and welcomed the President and Mrs. Nixon to Moscow, thus tacitly conceding that there was much at stake for themselves in the forthcoming discussions—far too much to permit the hoped-for gains to be jeopardized by their chagrin at Mr. Nixon’s stepped-up military actions against their ally North Vietnam.

Nuclear Stalemate

And indeed there was, for out of those summit meetings there emerged important agreements between the two nations to co-operate in research in health and medical science, in the many aspects of environmental pollution, and in joint space flight adventures. But beyond all doubt the most vital of all the agreements to come out of the discussions was that related to arms limitation. Based on the assumption that each of the great powers already possessed far more than enough nuclear arms to annihilate the other, and considering the great cost of continuing the futile build-up of missiles and submarines, the powers agreed to freeze their nuclear striking power at about its present level. Apart from the monumental loss of human life, the economic waste involved in the creation of military equipment and in the prosecution of military operations constitutes a bankrupting strain on the wealthiest of nations; and Russia is presently faced with the urgent need to mollify its populace with an improved standard of living.

An apt quotation was recently printed in one of our leading literary publications in which it was stated that what the world needs today is a declaration of interdependence. Whether this was expressed as a serious statement, or tossed off as a casual cliché, is immaterial: the principle is sound; indeed, it is essential to the attainment by man of peaceful existence on this earth.

The concept of “one world” is not new; it has long been advocated by thoughtful men who sensed that if man is to survive and enjoy the fruits of peace there must be universal co-operation between nations and individuals. The defunct League of Nations was created in that fine spirit, but selfishness rendered it powerless, and finally destroyed it. The United Nations Organization, similarly, is the product of this same noble ideal; but it, too, is having extremely difficult going, and for the same reason: the world has come to be too small a place to peacefully contain selfishly motivated peoples.

Is Russia at long last really seeing the light in this respect? Or, forced by circumstances nearer home, is she offering merely temporary concessions in order to gain time to promote her ideological aims at a more propitious time?

The Quickening Downward Slide

The original Olympic Games were held in Greece beginning in 776 B.C., and they continued for more than 1,100 years. Wars might rage between the ancient nations of earth, but for the duration of the games a recess was invariably called; international animosities and weapons of war were laid aside while the athletes contested for honors in the spirit of good will and sportsmanship. Peace reigned while the games proceeded; with their cessation the wars were resumed with a will. After eleven hundred years, the demise in A.D. 393 of the ancient Olympic Games was brought about by the disease of professionalism and dishonesty.

After a long lapse of 1,500 years the games were revived in 1896, when they were staged in Athens. Since then they have been held at four-year intervals with some degree of regularity except for periods of war—quite the reverse of the ancient arrangements, wherein wars were recessed in order to hold the games.

On their revival in modern times the games were reestablished on the original Greek concept of sportsmanship. In the hope that they would aid in promoting much-needed international amity this 1972 edition of the games was enthusiastically acclaimed by many nations. But even before the games began at Munich there arose problems of racism; and as the days went by the hoped-for harmony was marred by charges of professionalism, of biased judging, of the use of drugs by athletes to unfairly improve their performance, and other unpleasant incidents. There was a time (it seems to long ago) when it was taught—and believed—that winning is not the important thing; regretfully, it is more and more becoming the accepted doctrine that winning is the ONLY thing; and don’t be concerned as to HOW.

Then, seemingly to top off these unsavory but relatively lesser difficulties, came the brutal murder by Arab extremists of two Israeli Olympic athletes, and the subsequent death of nine Israeli hostages along with four of the Arab terrorists when the German police sought to effect the release of the captive Israelis. Now there is talk of giving up the whole idea of continuing the games. It is interesting to observe that it took eleven hundred years for corruption finally to destroy the original Olympic Games. Will the present accelerated rate of moral decay destroy the revived series of games in less than a hundred years?

“One World” of Interdependent Neighbors

If one accepts the view of the world as a relatively compact area inhabited by interdependent peoples, it is probably fair to consider the election of a President of the United States as a world event. For whatever happens in this nation; whatever military, financial, economic, and social policies are adopted here, these profoundly affect the rest of the world. Different policies can make the difference between war and peace; between prosperity and poverty; between friendship and hostility. And, indeed, the entire world was watching with keen interest the progress of the presidential contest.

However, once Senator George McGovern was chosen to be the Democratic standard bearer, the final result was not very much in doubt. The numerous private polls indicated that Mr. Nixon would be an easy victor; and the old line politicians seemed to know it. Even faraway Hanoi sensed it; for once Mr. Nixon’s victory seemed assured North Vietnam made her first real concessions toward arriving at a cease-fire. Quite possibly Hanoi was moved by the consideration that she did not want four more years of Mr. Nixon’s heavy bombing and mine laying. Also, it is quite possible that secret conversations between Mr. Nixon and his Chinese and Russian counterparts had stipulated that those nations (for a price) would bring pressure on Hanoi to co-operate toward ending the war in Indo-China. At any rate, serious efforts at attaining that end proceeded, and held considerable promise of being productive. If some sort of peace is achieved, however tenuous, it will be the most important happening in the world for a long time past. It will also be the capstone of Mr. Nixon’s achievements for his entire first term.

But a peace in Vietnam between Hanoi and Washington does not necessarily mean that the decades of difficulties suffered by that nation will be ended, and happiness forthwith restored. For peace will not bring back the Vietnamese dead (nor the American dead for that matter); peace will not miraculously make the blind to see, the crippled to walk; peace will not restore dead children to their parents, or give parents to orphans—many of them despised half-breeds; nor will it automatically erase from the tortured minds of millions of peace-craving people (whose dearest wish is to be permitted to grow their rice) the endless scenes of suffering, brutality, and devastation through which they have somehow managed to survive. And the diverse aims and selfish ambitions of those involved in that sadly stricken land, both North and South, seem destined to bring tragedy to that long-suffering land for a long time to come.

Love Thy Neighbor

The nations are no longer really separated from each other by vast oceans, mighty mountain ranges, arid deserts, or ice-covered continents. They are separated by their heart condition. Mankind, without having intended to do so, by their inventive genius have been drawn very close together in a kind of physical sense; but they are still far apart in those many aspects of life that really matter. As with neighbors in a village (which they in truth are), they know each other by name, so to speak; they are aware of their comings and goings, aware to a degree of their problems or prosperities; but they do not truly love their neighbors as themselves, according to the Lord’s instruction and example.

Sadly, the year past has for the most part been but a continuation of those deep-seated and developing problems of the years that have gone before, the solution to which continues to elude the best efforts of man. For pervading human selfishness and imperfection destroy any hope of man’s gaining real peace and real happiness through his own efforts. None-the-less, there is a solid reason to hope that man will eventually enjoy peace and joyous life here on this planet. This hope is not based on what man can or will do; it is based on what the Heavenly Father can do, and on what he has promised he will do. It is based on the solid Rock of Christ, who redeemed the world of mankind by the voluntary sacrifice of his life as a propitiation for sin.

We believe that the increasing realization by serious-minded people of the insolubility, even by well-intentioned men, of the many problems that beset this world is in itself a sign that the long-promised, righteous kingdom of God is near at hand. Jesus indicated that just prior to the time when the world would become aware of his presence with power and great glory in order to establish God’s kingdom on the earth, there would be “upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity [Greek, no way out]; … men’s hearts failing them for fear and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.” (Luke 21:25,26) We believe we are already in the beginning of that phase of the world’s journey that points to there being “no way out” so far as man’s own efforts are concerned. And it is at this point that the Almighty God of heaven takes a hand in the affairs of men to establish his kingdom.

This entire experience in the history of mankind will have provided an everlasting lesson in the need to know and to do righteousness, to love and serve the Lord, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. And how comforting it is to know that He who is seated at the mighty, universal, and eternal Command Module in the heavens directing the course and destiny of Spaceship Earth is wise, and powerful, and kind; and that every single one of its frail human cargo is precious in his sight, and safe in his loving care!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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