I am delighted to answer this question since it highlights the spiritual crisis that many people feel at the present time. What do humans add to the living systems of this planet, since we are consuming to the point where we are degrading the planet, and how does spirituality, which seems to be a thing apart, fit in to the present consumer age? (I will deal with your question about suicide at the end of my reply.)
What is the purpose of all this striving, consuming, building and manufacturing, and why are humans the "odd ball," apparently unable to work in harmony with nature as the rest of God's creation does? We appear the "odd ball," as you put it, because humans are the only part of the natural world that is able to view the rest of the world in a conscious and objective way. What does this mean? It means that our actions are not exclusively determined by instinct but are freely chosen. Unlike animals, humans are free to learn, make choices and express themselves. In an effort to learn and interact we strive, build, consume and manufacture. At first glance all this huge human effort, which seems so wasteful and in some cases so pointless, has a very important purpose... and that purpose is to learn something of infinite value. And, you may ask, what is the infinitely valuable thing learnt? The answer is LOVE. Planet Earth is a huge factory that produces LOVE. More and more and more LOVE.
"How can this be?" I hear you protest, "What about the starving millions, the drug trade, human trafficking, not to mention terrorism and war?" Philosophers have asked these questions down through the ages and have given, at best, confused answers. I will reply from a spiritual perspective - seen from this perspective everything becomes simple and clear.
The answer to this question is that people learn about LOVE by making mistakes. The bigger mistakes they make, the harder their life becomes, and it is the resulting stress that makes them stop and ask if there is a better way. When they do that then God will directly show them through inner guidance or will guide them to a teacher who can show them the better way. It is important to realize that we come to understand what LOVE is, not by gaining something, but by letting go of something. We come to understand LOVE by seeing what it is not and by letting that thing that is not love go from our character.
An example of letting go can be seen from last week's question. In it a man was refusing to wear clean clothes because he believed that it was "manly" to be a bit smelly. As a result he was in immanent danger of losing his relationship with a woman to whom he felt very close. (This is the mistake that is causing him to be stressed and has prompted him to write to me for guidance). In my reply I challenged his belief that being a bit smelly was manly and if he is wise he will let that belief go and wear clean clothes. If he does that he will be more considerate (and loving) toward his woman friend and may even win back her admiration.
This scenario could be played out for any mistake that human beings make, ranging from wearing unclean clothes, to mismanaging a factory, to drug trafficking and terrorism. The bigger the mistake the harder the lesson and the bigger the correction needed. Only Great Saints, Spiritual Masters and Avatars are immune from such correction, because they have attained enlightenment and are totally aware. All their actions are an expression of pure love and because of that, Life/God does not correct them. Their lives are examples of the Grace of God and flow and expand with effortless ease.
This is why a human being starts out on the spiritual path when they minimize the faults of other people (because they know these people are learning valuable lessons), and pay close attention to their own faults and seek to eradicate them. When a human being makes this switch in consciousness they begin the path of spiritual evolution toward enlightenment. As they get close to the state of enlightenment, they begin to minimize their mistakes and in doing so, become like the Saints they aspire to emulate, and attract fewer lessons. This is what it means to win God's Grace. A person who has won God's Grace is wealthy in the true sense of the word, because their life is stress free, abundant and filled with LOVE.
Today, more people than ever are learning these simple truths - and there are more people than ever to teach them - life coaches, counselors, psychotherapists, priests, psychologists, monks, management consultants, etc. In addition the range and scale of human error is growing (hence the ecological crisis to which you allude), the effect of which is going to challenge billions of people to re-evaluate their lives. This is now God's great opportunity to transform the hearts of millions. As a consequence a Golden Age is fast approaching where the consciousness of humankind will jump to a higher plane and a new civilization will be born free of war and environmental degradation.
Far from being apart from each other, spirituality and the world are bonded together like the two wings of a bird - both are needed for humankind to rise up toward enlightenment.
Now I would like to address your point about suicide. While it is a mistake to artificially prolong human life beyond that point where the quality of life is insignificant, nevertheless it is not for us, as egotistical human beings, to choose the time and nature of our departure. The time and nature of our departure is determined by our Karma, and we die in a particular way and at a particular time because it is necessary for us to experience this kind of suffering. The roots for this go very deep into past lives and are also connected with the completion of our life purpose. We need to experience and go through our Karma, but can ameliorate its worst effects by leading a good and upright life - seeking to help and not harm others (or our self).
It is not for us to interfere with this process by taking our own life. By interfering and engaging in self murder we are causing great harm to our self and all the people who love us. Furthermore by taking our own life we are seeking to avoid lessons we need to experience and, through causing so much harm, only adding to our burden of Karma, which we will then carry forward into our next life. Karma accumulates as a result of improper action and the more Karma we accumulate, the harder our life will be both in this incarnation and in future ones.
Further Help and Resources
Peter has created a new Quick Coach section to address this subject: Living consciously together on Earth. This Quick Coach takes advantage of existing resources on the trans4mind site to offer a range of helpful and varying perspectives. Please take a look.