What if the end is not near? What if we are just getting started on this planet?

The earth is, what, 4.5 billion years old give or take a few million years and may have at least another billion years or more to support life before the sun scorches it. Modern Homo sapiens, though, have been here for only a mere 200,000 years, possibly. We look at 2,000 years ago as though it’s ancient history. That’s actually just a blip in time on the cosmic clock.

Every century has had its doomsday fervor. First century Christians, for example, were certain Jesus would be right back. There have been countless proclamations and errant prophecies of when everything would end. It’s as though people want to be in the last generation.

But, what if humans have a run like the dinosaurs did? Dinosaurs ruled the planet in various species for millions of years. Maybe we are at the very beginning, relatively, rather than close to the end. Of course, dinosaurs didn’t have the power to wipe themselves out the way we humans do now.

Let’s be optimistic for a moment, though, and, barring another cataclysmic asteroid collision, assume the human penchant for massive self-destruction as demonstrated throughout the past hundred years is just a phase we will get through. What if these are our “teenage” years as a species and we will mature into truly rational beings who use our big brains exclusively for constructive ends? Imagine what a fascinating world could lie ahead for our descendants.

What could human life look like 1,000 years from now? 10,000 years, 100,000 years from now? Surely, humans, if we make it another century or two, will be smarter and kinder and more civilized. The intelligence it will take to get past this phase of self-destructiveness almost ensures that, if we do survive, we will be better than we are now.

What can we do now to live our lives in such a way that we can help our species mature in the direction of a long, bright future for humanity? I do think about how my decisions affect my children’s future. I should also take the long view and consider the ramifications for generations yet unborn.

If we don’t blow ourselves up or destroy our environment, I’m certain we can continue to evolve and adapt and get better as a species. We each can do our part by being discontent with just getting by and striving to improve ourselves a little each day. Evolve intentionally. You, by being a bit more awesome this week than you were last week, can nudge the whole human race forward and toward an unimaginably fascinating future.

Taking the really long view can really change your perspective. Let’s think of this time we’re living in as just the beginning of the magnificent and very long human era on earth. Centuries from now our descendants could look back on our generation as the one that made the difference, that began a golden age of human existence.

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Image via NASA Goddard Space Flight Center