Over one billion people are expected to vote, and they say not a single one will be opting for my candidate.
The global poll to determine the seven natural wonders of the world is underway—seven natural wonders to go alongside the seven manmade wonders. The finalists include the Amazon rain forest, the Dead Sea, Mount Kilimanjaro, and Ecuador's Galapagos Islands. Millions have weighed in already, online and by phone. But they tell me my vote has been wasted because my candidate was never nominated.
I say there's still time to sway the masses. I call for one more nominee to be thrown into the mix.
You can have your Grand Canyon, your Matterhorn, and your Great Barrier Reef. I nominate bipedal primates in the family Hominidae (taxonomically Homo sapiens). I nominate Man.
I nominate you, the creature I see out my car window shuffling past the convenience store, picking the quarter off the sidewalk. You with the fanny pack emerging from Walmart with your lawn ornament.
I nominate myself and my brethren—we the people. I nominate us as the greatest wonder of the natural world. We've only been around 200,000 years, yet look at us. We're something to write home about.
Mountains, trees, and waterways are sites to ponder, but what subject dominates bookshelves everywhere? Human life, that's what. We're not just standing there looking pretty. We're on the move. We're going places. The ancient Egyptians were something, but the ancient Greeks were better. And I like Martin Luther as much as the next guy, but have you read Ken Wilber?
Yes, we rape and torture, but it only makes the Minnesota Orchestra all the more startling. We have the dark and the light in us like nothing this universe has ever seen. Even night and day don't have such stark alter egos. Night is as sweet and soulful as any summer afternoon. Our dark side, however, is too horrific to fully comprehend (see Nanking, 1937). So when we walk on the moon and build the St. Paul Cathedral, there is every reason to ask, who the hell are these freaks?
We are the world's greatest show, for better and for worse. We offer jaw-dropping surprises when you least expect it. When the savagery of South Africa's apartheid leaves you ashamed and aching for that isolated cabin in the woods, along comes the staggeringly mature civility of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and damned if we don't outdo ourselves again.
We can vomit on a park bench holding a cheap bottle of brandy and give our lives to save a child we've never met. We can stand with our shirt half untucked, needing a shave, smelling of old cigarettes, and deliver a sentiment that cracks open a steel heart. Our capacity for love is boundless, but we can die moaning of some half-cent sales-tax increase.
What else touches our depravity and nobility? What else comes near our fascinating complexity? We are dust, and we are gods, peerless in our paradox.
There was a time, a few thousand years ago, when I didn't think we had much on the ball. We ate and slept and mated, and if some guy messed with us, we dropped a rock on his head. I wasn't impressed.
But then around 2500 B.C. some yahoo wrote a poem in Babylonia, a group of Sumerians cooked up something resembling beer, and a Chinese fella did a masterful job with a painting on the side of a clay pot. I got to thinking, don't write these clowns off just yet. The rock to the head thing was still occurring pretty regularly, but rocks were also being dragged to a place called Stonehenge, and that was a serious step beyond eat, sleep, mate, and die.
Finally, somewhere around 500 B.C., the world shifted dramatically. Confucius, Socrates, Lao Tzu, and Siddhartha Gautama were all born within a few years of one another, and there wasn't a weird protruding forehead in the bunch. I've been smitten ever since.
We are truly a natural wonder to behold. If there's going to be a vote for top spot, we ought to be on the ballot. We deserve our place next to Angel Falls and the Cliffs of Moher. Who's in charge of this thing? Please, come check us out. We're on YouTube.