Member Commentary

Citizens of the Cosmos

Jeffrey D. Wolfert ( writes:

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious ." Albert Einstein

I dream of a time when, somewhere far, far from our terrestrial home, one "being" sees another "being" and says something like "Hey, aren't you an Earthling?" Think about it. It's really not too far a leap from "Say, aren't you from New York" or "Hey, aren't you a Parisian?" There are countless variations on this theme but unless and until we instill a truly global mentality into each and every homosapien (literally translated as "man the wise" but painfully far from the mark by any objective analysis), we will probably continue annihilating our fellow man -- thanks almost exclusively to our predilection for "labeling."

I wonder. If "people-labels" simply didn't exist, how would the Croats and Serbs in Bosnia have effectuated their murderous ethnic cleansing? How could Protestants and Catholics in Ireland carry out their abominable campaigns? How could juries be racially divided? If people-labeling devices didn't exist, we could all simply be "Earthlings." That's the singular, "magical" label that could unite this fragmented, tormented world of ours; and it's application would suggest that we may have, at long last, gained a planetary, and perhaps even a budding universal, perspective. As H. G. Wells said, "Our true nationality is mankind."

Of course, we do not live in that mythical "perfect world"; so at least for the time being, people-labels do exist and oh how they are mechanisms of malevolence. Ironically, this penchant of our species is contemporaneous with a growing global acceptance of the likelihood that other intelligent life forms abound throughout the universe. At our current stage of development, our intellect may be likened to the wings of an ostrich. It enables us to run, though not to soar.

Eminent astronomer Carl Sagan is currently fighting a potentially deadly disease that has been partially thwarted by advances in medical research born out of animal experimentation. It was both touching and thought-provoking when he stated that he had always fought against such experiments on moral grounds, yet he was ambivalently grateful for the benefits such research now afforded him.

We contemptuously continue to make all life forms on this planet, animal and plant, microorganism and test-tube creation, the servant of man, using and abusing them in any capricious manner that suits our fancy. Notwithstanding this, we sanctimoniously express revulsion and outrage at the stories of alien abductions wherein it's the human animal that is unwittingly subjected to experimentation, subjugation and the like! We surely love to run with the hounds and hide with the hares at the same time, don't we?

Our own government, with its arrogant, petty, paranoid, "top secret", "the public's too stupid to know" mentality, hasn't "come clean" with us about alien contact so I guess we'll just have to wait for a scenario similar to that portrayed in the classic 1950s movie, "The Day the Earth Stood Still", to gain a realistic perspective of our place in the cosmic scheme of things. No matter how often the government denies it, or how vociferously the military protests that they're "not hiding anything," I'm personally convinced that "Roswell," and many other similar incidents, really happened. The essence of lying is in the deception, not in the words. "Military Intelligence" -- the quintessential oxymoron.

It's overwhelmingly likely that we will come to learn, understand, and in the end, accept the fact that we're a relatively insignificant species living on a mundane planet in the outward spiral arm of a prosaic galaxy, among super-clusters of galaxies that themselves comprise but a tiny part of an unfathomably immense universe, which may yet be but one of an infinite number of "other" universes. Still, despite the previous speculation, which at first may seem to render our existence as meaningless (a belief in things spiritual notwithstanding), we share what must be one of the most unlikely, spectacular, wondrous long-shots in the universe (or any universe, for that matter) and that is life! And not just "life" but the jackpot of jackpots, sentient life!

Perhaps someday we'll, in some modest way, come to understand the cosmos and nature and the "hows" and "whys" of our world -- and in time, of other worlds as well. What joy and ecstasy simply to be able to contemplate such things! I wonder. Could the universe itself be sentient or are we, along with all other intelligent beings, it's "designated thinkers"? What meaning could "all this" have if there were no beings capable of contemplating, understanding, and explaining it, even if only to themselves? And will that ultimate "interpretation" of ours really be a universal "truth" or will it simply be a description that only the unique wiring of our convoluted brains could have formulated? Will other, non-human beings be able to make any sense out of it? And will we ever reach a time when our "explanation" can be truly be thought of as "complete"? Newton's wasn't. Einstein's wasn't. But what is mind anyway? Never matter. What is matter? Never mind. Whatever, there's comfort in realizing that pygmies on the shoulders of giants see more than the giants themselves.

As previously expressed, I'd only be surprised if our government has not already taken part in extraterrestrial dialogues. Imagine the insuperable egos of our government bureaucrats, employed by us supposedly to work for our best interests, who, by virtue of their unrestricted power and relative lack of accountability (to whom are they answerable, I'd like to know), decide for us what they'll "allow us to know" and what we are "not capable of assimilating." And if we do happen to either photograph, videotape, or otherwise come to possess something that rocks their esoteric little boat, they resort to intimidation, threats (sometimes deadly), dirty tricks, or when all else fails, gross misinformation in order to remain the sole and stalwart "keepers of the truth." What's wrong with this picture?

Perhaps if we, someday, limit our fondness for labeling to non-humans (Kierkegaard said "when you label me, you negate me") we'll be much nearer the threshold of becoming a genuinely bonded race. If, and this would surely be to the utter amazement of not only the entire human race but to the plenary population of the cosmos, we actually survive our "terrible teens" and peaceably take our place among the constructive denizens of the universe, it very well may be because we ultimately learned to appreciate that all forms of life have their own integrity and rightful place. Maybe then we'll be considered by our cosmic neighbors as a race finally on the path to enlightenment. After all, if we'd found but a microbe when we scooped the soil on Mars, it would have been the most inspiring, most important discovery man had ever made. (Who knows? Maybe we did but Uncle Sam doesn't want to "panic" us.)

What worlds await us. What wonders there must be. If we do survive our adolescence, most certainly our ultimate future as a species will be "out there" and not here. The Earth, our mother ship, is expected to exist for another 5 billion years or so. When our Sun becomes a red giant, that'll be "all she wrote" for our blue planet. By that time, however, we'll have long, long ago, terraformed other planets and, I'm certain, experienced our own galactic version of diaspora. Somewhere, perhaps thousands of light years from where we live today, countless eons after our cradle of creation has been reduced to a cinder, one being may look at another, and with a faint twinkle of recognition in his eye, ask "Hey, aren't you an Earthling?"



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