Reverence, Responsibility and Restraint

“Civilisations at the height of their powers have found it hard to maintain a sense of limits. Each in turn has been captivated by the idea that it alone was immune to the laws of growth and decline, that it could consume resources indefinitely, pursuing present advantage without thought of future depletion. Never is this more likely than when we lose the sense of awe in the face of totality. ‘But in proportion as the light of faith grows dim, the range of man’s sight is circumscribed,’ wrote Alexis de Tocqueville. ‘When men have once allowed themselves to think no more of what is to befall them after life, they lapse readily into that complete and brutal indifference to futurity which is all but too conformable to some propensities of humankind.’ The great faiths teach a different kind of wisdom: reverence in the face of creation, responsibility to future generations, and restraint in the knowledge that not everything we can do, should we do.”

The Dignity of Difference, p. 148