So, I'm not sure if the impetus for these 'Personal Inquisitions' or reflections comes from facing my personal mortality or from contemplating the species mortality we all face. No matter, maybe some of the questions here will be of interest.
I'll try not to be bombastic or didactic, but I don't know what will happen.
INQUISITIONS - PREFACE
First, a little more background on using the word 'Inquisition'.
An 'Inquisition' is simply a question.
According to Google's dictionary, an inquisition is "a period of prolonged and intensive questioning or investigation, as in 'she relented in her determined inquisition and offered help'. Synonyms: interrogation, questioning, quizzing, cross-examination, investigation, inquiry, inquest, hearing. Informal grilling, examination"
Although the word is also used to describe an 'ecclesiastical tribunal established by Pope Gregory IX circa 1232', the word is used here in its more generic meaning and does not reference any religious 'Inquisition'.
INQUISITION 1: Live a Good and Moral Life
Or, more completely:
'How can I conduct my daily affairs with decency and compassion while being convinced absolutely that the human species will go extinct during the lifetime of my great-great grandchildren?'
After accepting the conclusion that the human species will go extinct soon, my first reaction was a feeling of complete helplessness. It is like watching a train wreck in slow motion when the train contains all your loved ones.
The 1993 movie 'Fugitive' with Harrison Ford has a scene where his character is watching just such a train wreck. It is a great visual image.
It happened that this revelation occurred simultaneously with my parent's passing.
Second, when considering the species event as opposed to the personal event, there are no tears of relief or comfort for angst this large. The likely reality is stark and unforgiving. And, there is nothing I can do to change the outcome. It will just happen.
The personal event is similarly stark, but it is less traumatic since it was expected and natural.
While considering either event, some can look to their God for relief, but I am not a religious person. There is no comfort for me in a 'belief' in any sort of God or supreme power.
It is apparent that the powers which control the Universe are vast and beyond our ability to understand.
It may be that the human species has constructed the idea of God and of religions to make sense of the unknowable. However, I would rather follow our collective curiosity toward greater understanding of truth than deliberately close off that inquiry by adopting some human construction of the universe. It is better to live with wonder and awe than it is to live with fear and ignorance.
To repeat the opening question, the question is this: how can I live decently in a world of unknowable powers and the certainty of impending doom?
I choose a dual path. First, I make every effort to alert people to the evidence supporting the extinction hypothesis. Perhaps there is a miracle waiting whereby we can avoid the pain and suffering that will accompany the extinction.
Perhaps that hope is merely 'pissing in the wind' and will accomplish nothing.
But, at least it is an effort in a positive direction.
One approach toward positive action is to take an idea from the Stoic philosophers, badly paraphrased as this: The past is over, the future is mostly unknowable and the only thing we possess is today.
That translates to a daily action plan of focusing on the things that I can do today while simultaneously letting go of any and all past actions
And, since any action has consequences for the future, I try to make decisions which will bring about a better future.
And here is the rub: there is no long term future when an extinction event looms ahead.
Some might argue that such a viewpoint suggests a hedonistic and acquisitive life is the best choice. There are lots of examples of that choice, regardless of any concern about species extinction.
But, pleasure and accumulation as a life style do not suit my temperament.
I acknowledge that I am singularly lucky to live as an adult today in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. There are benefits and rewards beyond measure and beyond our ability to enjoy them all.
But all the while, I recognize that my descendants will pay the price for my luxury and I am saddened by that. It is doubly sad that they are not even aware of the fate they face.
All I can do is to apologize in advance.
If my great-great grandchildren are reading this, then I say to them: The disasters you suffer were largely unavoidable. We could have changed things so you would have a better outcome, but we did not recognize the dangers in time and we were not able to overcome our behavioral flaws to act as a species instead of as selfish individuals.
Some of us regret that more than words can express.
To the question: What can I do today to make the troubled lives around me better?
More than regret and apology, what can I do?
Perhaps it is simply this: recognize explicitly that most people really do want to make the world a better place. So tell them - each and every one you see doing that. Tell them that their efforts are noticed by you and that they are doing a good job.