When I was younger, I dreamt of an utterly united civilisation transcending galaxies. I don’t talk about it much, but the thought never left. I saw so many around me who were uninspired. It saddened me to my living death, to a standstill, just the simple act of looking around. Of course, every person was fighting a battle of their own. I, too, was fighting my own, despite my privileges; those earned through each step or those I was born into out of luck. Both were my responsibility. Of course, we needed to be better. Civilisation and humanity were deeply flawed.
There were problems, large ones, but our highest responsibility was not to forget the gifts of our times. We needed to be better. We owed so much to each ancestor who tried to fight, to stay alive, to make something, all the way back to when we were still part of the jungle. I did what I did because I owed in equal parts to the painters, the philosophers, the builders, the scientists, the composers, the poets, the farmers, those living around them, those whose names were erased out of history, those who continually strived to believe in better. I owed my entire life those who came before.
We owed it to each hunter-gatherer roaming the savannahs to keep moving our bodies. We owed it to everyone and everything that came before, everything that increased the odds of our existence in the first place: to strive; to try. We owed them to be better, to learn more, to open our minds further, to accept the human experience; to know science and poetry alike, to look at a painting and not just see colours but lines, and to look at the lines as not something only out of geometry but also, expression of the burden of the human condition.
The history of civilisation was a humongous debt: towering and overburdening, and yet it was no excuse not to look back in awe and admiration, but to bow before what those before us accomplished, and to revel in the possibility of how far we could go. Our responsibility was to avoid our need to escape, to look in the mirror, and to accept that it all begins with us. It began with one person taking one step towards a higher ideal.
Before they knew it, civilisation followed.