Today I know people at both poles of the earth. Today I speak to the people I love. Today I breathe the foggy marine layer
. Today I dream about my feet on distant lands, crossing distant geography.
Today I realize there is no such thing as distance. Where I am now is a distant land to someone. Yesterday it was 90 degrees fahrenheit outside, today is cool and damp. I think about my world and am thankful to be in it. My friends are living. My friends are dying. Today I found out that a disease is killing another person my wife loves. Today love is a human construct built from emotion and gut-instinct, no universal principle.
We will all die anyway.
But today, I know people at both poles. I know both poles.
I don't believe.
These words are not what I mean.
I feel into them but they spill,
And drip impotent spells
Cast by an erstwhile psychokinesist
Whose soul is still captured on film,
Now electron bound by Kodak,
And the blurtation of a man at the park who thought we made a nice couple.
It doesn't mean anything else.
It's only how I feel better.
Please don't look at me that way.
My mind is too easy to read.
I went Mountain Biking in Los Gatos
today. First time in about 4 months. I went alone as usual, and so had lots of time to think while grunting up the hills.
It struck me that the arrogance of western civilization will probably be its undoing.
I'm sure the Roman Empire thought it would last forever. A thousand years is a long time. To people with an average lifespan of 38 years, it probably seemed like eternity.
I'm 45. If I was a citizen of ancient Rome, I'd be dead by now. Truth is, I am condemned to die on this planet. It's only a matter of time.
What made me think of arrogance is the non-stop dreck bombardment on the cable channels. If it isn't right-wing wackos aiming Archimedes' heat beam of hatred at someone or some nation, it's endless shows about alien abduction, unsolved mysteries, or hauntings.
All proof, in my mountain intoxicated mind, of a society so caught up examination of its own navel lint it misses the big picture. Why should I care about Michael Jackson? Why should I give a shit about Scott Peterson or goddamned Dan Rather, who by admission of both the right and left went from being a decisive reporter to a self-absorbed nutcase looking for a patent on his perpetual ego machine.
Let's take the alien abduction bullshit splattered across the cable airwaves. Since John Mack died, Harvard University has been trying to recapture its psychiatric credibility so there's now a stream of Harvard-educated shrinks broadcast on The Alien Abduction Channel who can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that alien encounters are all explainable in terms of fugue states, depression, drugs, and fantasy.
After all -- say the skeptics and scientists -- none of it is reproducible. There is no evidence. Until there is, it isn't true. Besides, who wants to be seen as allied with those crop circle maniacs?
This totally freaks me out. I can't emphasize that enough.
Here's why: in the science of physics there is an underlying philosophy that the physics of here, is the same as the physics of the rest of the universe. We have to think that, because there's absolutely no way for us to prove or disprove it. So when we look through huge telescopes and see things happening, we fit those observations into the epistemology of our mental construct. Into our physics. Inertia is the same everywhere. Gravity is the same everywhere. We don't actually know what these things are, but we know they exist because objects in motion or at rest tend to stay that way until acted upon by a force here on earth, and big masses tend to attract other masses, and through telescopes and with spectrometers and with gravity wave measurement devices and with particle detectors, we see things happening way the hell out there that seem to follow those rules, within limits. Granted, every now and then we see something that blows our socks off, and then we have to go and recast what we saw in a different light, pun intended. But that's the way it works.
See, because we don't actually know what's happening, we have to presume. And then our observations make sense.
Then what the fuck with aliens and UFOs? Millions -- and let me reproduce that number again for everyone to see, 1,000,000s of people have seen UFOs. Of course, doesn't mean they're spaceships from other planets. Lots of times they're airplanes. But things that follow a particular paradigm of erratic flight are well-known and catalogued. Every professional pilot has a UFO story about a solid craft they saw that exhibited a seeming irrelevance to gravitational and inertial physics. Circular, cigar shaped, or triangular. Lots of people have nightmares, dreams, or post-traumatic stress disorder from encounters with little gray guys with big black eyes. If these encounters were with rapists or murderers, we'd be much more likely to accept the stories. In fact, maybe they are, we hope.
But these observations have been made since the dawn of humanity.
Do you realize how far out of our way we have to go to convince ourselves it's not happening?
We totally do not understand the physics of life -- what makes it tick -- what is the life force we all have that we can't comprehend? -- somehow we have reserved a special status for that. Somehow, for reasons that have nothing at all to do with logic, but rather, with emotion, the smart guys who say "inertia on Earth is inertia on Betelgeuse" refuse to say, "if there's life here, it's probably every fricking place." And there's all sorts of rationalization for it, but truth is, it's just arrogance.
Partly for religious reasons. We lose our status with God if there are others in the universe. And let me remind you that there is about as much mythology and legend in the Bible as there is in the frescos of the great white race that descended from the stars carved in Mayan pyramids. If we don't believe the Mayans, or the Aztecs, or the Egyptians or the Hopi, the Navajo, the goddamned Laotian natives -- what makes our "special place" in the universe any more valid than the "special place" perpetrated by the Catholic church when it stopped Galileo from advancing human knowledge?
So what I was thinking is: what if the entire world suddenly became consistent? What if myth and legend here was myth and legend on Alpha Centauri? Plenty of people believe the Bible is valid in the entire universe. That the Bhagvad Gita is valid on Mars. That the Koran works in the center of the sun just like relativity and chemistry does -- what if the fact there's life here on Earth means it's actually EVERYWHERE, and the fact it's not evident doesn't mean it doesn't exist -- but that we just haven't found it. For godsakes, we hypothesized a magnetic monopole and gravity waves when none had been seen, but we knew they were there, and then suddenly, we found those things when we built the right machines. What if we just all intuitively KNEW the universe was lousy with life, and the fact we haven't proven it to our satisfaction didn't mean we were alone in the universe, but rather, that we just haven't figured out how to talk to it with these goddamned speed-of-light limitations. But we will. Just like magnetic monopoles and intermediate vector bosons and water on Mars and signals from space.
What gives us the arrogance of the Caesars to presume this small dust grain in the massive universe has any more supremacy over life than a scout ant scurrying across your kitchen floor has over your home?
The sun does not move around the earth, and no church could legislate that. We are not special. We will all die here too.
There's lots of life we don't know about. Lots.
When I was a kid way back in the 60's, before all this hoopla about space ships and grays and aliens making a hybrid race for ridiculous reasons, I woke up in the middle of the night, frightened by a loud noise.
I sat up in bed and was immediately frozen to the spot. There in my room was what I thought was a robot. Three feet high. Looking white in the moonlight. Big black eyes. I've never been so terrified in my life. The experience burned an image in my head that has never disappeared.
The creature rose upward, suddenly, and disappeared through my ceiling, like a ghost. In fact, I was sure I had seen a ghost and when it was gone I "unfroze" and screamed bloody murder, causing my father to come running into my bedroom.
He tried to convince me I was sleeping, but as I had never changed position after sitting up and being "frozen" in place, I knew I wasn't. And without the benefit of cable TV to explain to me I had seen a "gray" and maybe I should think about "missing time" or look for weird scars -- I was just a scared kid who thought he saw the ghost of some kind of bug.
What was that thing? It was some other kind of life. I don't know if it's from another planet. More likely, I think it's from this very earth. It belongs here as much as we do.
What makes us think we're special? Why should I believe someone who tells me I was depressed, and that's why I saw it? I was in a fugue state. I was under the influence of a hallucinogenic drug. I was dreaming.
I swear -- if that was a dream, I have never had it again. I have been much more depressed in my life than I could ever have been as a happy 6-year old, and it has never happened again. In the old days they used to give you Phenobarbital and other opiates as a kid -- and it never happened before when I was so dizzy with fever the bed spun in circles. And I have been in fugue states and have never become "frozen". Never. It was a one time event.
It was as real to me as typing these words right now. Something manipulated my reality. It doesn't follow our rules, but nobody wants to believe that -- or if they do, they're cast as looking to escape a mundane reality. But I wasn't looking to escape anything. I was just sleeping because it was night and I had to go to school the next day.
It's fear, my friends. We're a fear-based society. Our fear makes us arrogant. We don't want it to be so, and it's easy to wish away. But just like the prisoners at Gitmo, the war in Iraq, the destruction of the Trade Center, or Michael Jackson sleeping with little boys, it's real. Totally.
The reason I have such a vast dislike of the men who make themselves president is that all of them embody that arrogance to a certain extent. We get the leaders we deserve, and they embody the arrogance we enshrine. We are now so so very right about everything. The Boy King currently in office presumes he has an angel on his shoulder and that his word is the word of God's himself. His predecessor used his office to get haircuts on busy runways, blowjobs in the halls of government, and advance screenings of first-run movies, all at my expense.
This arrogance will kill us all. We alienate our political allies, ignore valid observation, hold back miracle cures, deny the hand of God on earth and crush the weak because we believe we are right. We are oh so right, oh so privleged, oh such the chosen of the true God that we actually have to argue with ourselves about executing our children. What has happened to us? At least the Aztecs sacrificed their children to the Gods. We just throw ours away when we're so busy watching the next episode of Fear Factor or Sean Hannity we lose interest in teaching them.
What adjectives would we have summoned, 50 years ago, to describe the depths of human consciousness probed by a society that executed children for crimes as if they were adults? About the arrogance of a people who preach tolerance of race and religion and calls itself a beacon in an unenlightened world -- yet that has so lost itself in self-interest and paranoia its own offspring have become a threat? What has happened to us?
The world around us is screaming right now. We can't will away global warming. It's already warm. The ice is cracking. The oceans are rising. It can't be reversed by any ridiculous ban on carbon emissions. We've missed the boat. The government's arrogance about emissions, the scientist's arrogance about process, the environmentalists arrogance about cause -- we ignored the signs now we will get what we asked for. The Earth will eradicate us. We're its stomach ache.
Sooner or later Gaia will tsunami us away, or volcano us away, or a meteor will hit, or the birthrate will sink to -0.5 and we'll just disappear after a couple generations. Nobody knows why life exists, what it is, how we arise from biology, chemistry, and physics, or even if those things have anything to do with it.
And then I got to the top of the bicycle hill. I thanked God for letting me live another year. I said, "hi," to my dead Father whom I believe exists somewhere in the universe. I thanked all my dead relatives for their continued love and I said a prayer for all the soldiers in Iraq and all the starving children in Africa, who have been starving and been children since I collected pennies for UNICEF in 2nd grade.
And I knew I could not believe Fox News. Somewhere in this universe there's a little boy being molested by someone who's not Michael Jackson. Could not believe CNN. There's a wife being killed by a husband who's not Scott Peterson. Nor NPR. Somewhere there's a kid starving in a big place that's not Africa. There's conflict somewhere other than the middle-east. Oil is not our only natural resource. Two random humans can create another with some wine and 9 spare months and not one person knows where that soul comes from. And if that life is worth protecting before it's born, it's worth protecting when it's young and finds a gun. And there's a baby being born and a young man dying of self-inflicted wounds and a grandmother celebrating her 89th birthday. Someone got married today. Someone told a lie. Someone looked at the stars and made a wish.
In my mind on a planet that is away from our Earth there are beings who yearn to understand their universe. And they wonder what life is like on other planets. And I know on other worlds there are other wise men and other writers. One is sitting down and putting down his thoughts tonight, just as I am doing. His life is worth as much as mine.
And God hears his prayers, too.