Starlit Blackness

(December 11th, 2011)

Life gets so very busy at times. A week can go by, sometimes even a month or two, and you suddenly realize that some event that you once considered to be immediately recent is now almost entirely lost into the past, sometimes inconclusively muddled into the rest of the surrounding depths. You might have trouble recalling what day some remembered event happened on, or what other events of the same timeframe were. They become a blur, now mixing with ever-more-recent events continuing to confuse things. You lose track of the individual moments, of the complicated mesh of factors which constantly work to make you who you are, make your decisions what they are, make your life what it is. But we must realize that our existence in this world is due entirely to the ever-playing-out unfolding of the sum of all of the moments of our past. Every single intertwining thread of your personal history, unimaginably complicated in its interweaving with those of every person you’ve ever had influence with, imposes its role on the present. The being you are is utterly, fundamentally made up by the being you have been, and this being you have been is entirely abstract, compounded by the passing of each and every single moment as they pass by ever-fleetingly into the perpetually growing collection of your memories.
 
But you cannot look upon the past as a meaningfully continuous, unbroken assessment of influences on the present. Your past is fragmented, broken and scattered (unless you are an exceedingly rare case who can seemingly remember everything) across your notion of time so much that it’s often difficult even to gauge the time difference between two events you know (for whatever that’s worth) must have occurred in close proximity. So many of them get twisted up among themselves, and it may take a directed, powerful conscious effort to recall enough details to place a meaningful correlation upon one such event in respect to any others.


Rather than a reel or stream of video able to be accessed at your leisure, the influences of your past make up a sort of collection of discrete luminous points against otherwise utter black nothingness. Because you won’t remember everything... black nothingness reaches out to swallow up everything that is not somehow committed to permanent recallable memory. This is what’s behind you, if you were to consider yourself as a point on a sort of lifelong timeline. These discrete, luminous points against the all-encompassing blackness are your memories of the past, some nearer to the “present” and some much more clear and distinct than the rest despite their varying time-distances, and therefore brighter, more distinguishable. Around you, then, everything in clear focus beside you is your present—unhindered by distance, at least within the extreme recent past, and able to be viewed in all of its immediately considerable glory. And in front of you are mere projections, ultimately indistinguishable in their haziness, exponentially more so as the projections increase in forward-time-distance, but sometimes clear enough to grasp a future you may have considerable control over bringing about.

You stand at the center of this thought experiment. Time is a river, ever-flowing past your rooted position, forever working to glide each moment smoothly past you into the swallowing blackness of the past. Yet because you possess this remarkable faculty to recall events, those which flow behind your immediate vicinity are not necessarily lost forever—they may become luminous points, positioned somewhere behind you among all of the complexity that is your past experience, and are then able to be recalled at will. But not all—not even an appreciable fraction of all—of the events which flow behind you take on such a form. Most of them flow right past and meld into the utter blackness so fully that they will likely never be recalled again. Those that do not share this fate, those that take on their luminous positions against this encroaching blackness, are usually those which are most worthy of this honor. They were somehow more meaningful than the rest which failed to attain such status, most likely because of an emotional tie or any number of such personal significances. Perhaps all memories, every single moment, is assigned a space into this blackness, but might be so vanishingly faint that no amount of effort will ever fully recall. Regardless, those which take their place above the threshold of conscious recollection, bright enough to be seen when you turn around to look, are by definition those which will have the power to remind you of where you came from, what being you have been and therefore what being you are and what being you have the power to become.

Filtered in this way, those memories which somehow survive the passage into meaningful luminescence will take their place amidst the surrounding blackness and other such “survivors”. Some will even work further; they will constellate themselves into meaningful groupings which will then yield even further insights, multiplied by their cooperation. Negative memories will provide for you recollections of mistakes or other such reinforcements of an event which could hopefully have some sort of insight gleaned from them. You can use them to avoid similar recurrences. Positive memories will remind you of things you did right, or things that happened to play out favorably, and in turn will help to shape your present attitude so as to create more such favorable points. Ultimately, you want each moment to flow by you on its way to take its place as a brightly shining, positively reinforcing memory to be recalled when its relevance will serve you positively.

They say it’s dangerous to dwell on the past… doing so hinders your progress, eats up your focus which could be better spent dealing with the ever-present present and planning for an effective future. But an effective future is, in all likelihood, going to be achieved through an effective understanding of the past. Those luminous points shining so brightly behind you are forever there for you to analyze. They most likely hold the most profitable keys to a successful future, especially if you can see them for the ways in which they may relate to a current situation, how they might be constellated into a collective meaning, but even when this is not obvious the more happy memories among them will always work to remind you of fortunes you once held within your grasp, times which were once being experienced in a long-lost present. They may yet hold secrets to blissful fortunes you would otherwise overlook in constant consideration of the present/future. The goal, clearly, is to develop an effective balance of past, present and future considerations. But it often seems to me to be the case (and I hope I’m wrong!) that the past is the first one consciously dropped, unfortunately, in favor of the alternatives.

A busy life is not unlike a massively populated city, so crowded with people and buildings and lights that most of the incredible starry night sky is shrouded in its own produced glare. People go about their lives, of course living, physically, entirely within the present, but their probing minds may not reach far in any other direction because of this convoluted mess always stealing away their attention. The vast majority of the bright points of light standing out among the rest of the mind-numbingly black sky are drowned out entirely and people don’t even stop to realize that there are countless more beautiful stars lighting up the blackness, staring them in the face if they would only take some time to separate themselves from such unrelenting focus on the present and just take in some of the wonder that is just outside the reach of their typical lifestyles.

If you’ve ever looked at the sky far enough away from any electrically populated area then you probably noticed the utter, almost indescribable vastness of the night sky as practically uncountable numbers of stars were made apparent to your unaccustomed eyes. It’s absolutely incredible, I believe, as few times as I’ve seen such a sight myself (and I certainly hope to see it many more times in the future!), and yet is almost entirely overlooked within the daily routines of the vast majority of the people on (largely civilized portions of) the planet today. Today’s modern world, with all of its widespread electricity bringing us the wonders of artificial light, heat, internet, refrigeration, gaming, and the like, often neglects to remind us of the difficult stages we’ve been through. So caught up in our modern technology, bringing us our superior artificial light and entertainment, we sometimes lose sight of the enormous scales of time in which such luxuries were not possible because of the available resources and knowledge. Long ago, people saw such sights every single night (discounting clouds and such). Of course the modern luxuries would not be possible without the struggles and the breakthroughs of the past, and they are inherently meaningful to us all because of this fact, but even so we tend to discount the matter entirely when current stresses and trials call much of our attention to the present, into the glare.

The intense glare of the present moment tends to far outshine the past, even where it is directly related to the very well-being of that which we hold so dear to our present lifestyle, because we see it as it is and tend to believe that the struggles of the past—however tightly they may have been intertwined with the luxuries of the present—are gone, and only worth fleeting consideration when such a thing is forced upon us. But set aside some amount of time, such as a carefree weekend (as many do when they get the chance), and go and enjoy the uncomplicated luxuries of a relaxing camping trip, or some such trip, spent far enough away from modern civilization that you can truly appreciate the incredibly vast sight that awaits you when you gaze upon a clear night sky. Even when you are looking upon the clear night sky in all of its unsheltered glory, you could probably assign every single star in the sky a memory of your past and not even come close to exhausting the entire “library” your mind has at its disposal. There certainly aren’t enough constellations in the typically recognized assortment to map out all the complicated connections.

Our personal lives are like that, in a way. So caught up in our present moments, so engulfed in all of our modern habits and technologies, we tend to lose sight of the awesome complexities of our past lives which may hold untold fortunes for our present and future potentials if we were to give them proper consideration. They get lost in the glare of all of this modernity. But those starry points are there, even if you do not see them currently. Take a few steps back, and some time to devote to careful consideration, and they should make their way back into the sky as the glare of your overwhelming present subsides for a time. Do this occasionally. Remember your roots. Each of us has much to learn.

Each of us can be considered a similar, though wildly uncomplicated, model of humanity—just as we have so much to learn for ourselves, from ourselves, so humanity has much to learn for itself… from itself. What is available to be remembered of the past is, by far, the most effective way to indulge this necessity. Because things done wrong can be perfected, and things done right can be repeated… because we remember. Because we have the capacity to look back upon an event long past, recognize its brightly shining light so much like a beacon upon the utter blackness of the rest of the past, and devote our time and our consideration to its usefulness. Because the past is forever entangled within the present, and realizing this and seizing this phenomenon for all its worth opens up untold windows into the best possible futures—both for you, and anyone, as individuals, and for humankind as a whole.

The starlit blackness of the past is our only true guide into the hazy unknown of the inexorable future. THE BEST IS YET TO COME.

Posted by Eli Stanley | at 11:39 PM | 0 comments

On Nonsense

(December 4th, 2011)


I don't know that anyone in particular disagrees with me on the following topics. I only have the urge to formulate these arguments because I have known people who believed, and I have read things that supported these following prime examples of nonsense. At the very least there are some arguments which raise some important considerations in such matters. So in a way I hope that I'm not saying anything that everybody doesn't already agree with, or if this isn't the case then I hope these are at least some interesting arguments that can be discussed with respect and dignity, because respect and dignity are some very nice and important things in this world.

If I am wrong about anything in this writing then I would be absolutely overjoyed to be made aware of this. I might be hard to convince, as these are some pretty strong beliefs, but if you know this to be the case (that I am wrong) then you should be able to convince me. And that's the whole idea. :]

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There is no such thing as "luck" as far as any actual demonstrable "force" is at work in the world. I think that luck has its usefulness in describing a particular set of events; somebody may appear to have been "lucky" or "unlucky" for a certain period of time. It could have been any length of time and it may even be a trend still occurring. Perhaps somebody goes to the casinos and wins big--you'd probably say they were "lucky." Perhaps they have won big every single time they've gone—any number of times, say, fifty—you’d probably say they've been extremely and almost beyond all odds "lucky." But this trend could be broken at any time. The person is not inherently "lucky." Something is worth being said about their good fortunes, for sure. I would call them "lucky" myself, but only in the sense that it describes a given set of past circumstances that happen to stand out among the mundane rest of them. Certainly there were vast amounts of people who were particularly "unlucky" at the casinos during the same timeframe. Statistically, somebody is probably going to win big. It's pure coincidence who this happens to be. And, statistically (and especially with a large enough pool of participants) somebody is bound to be extremely "lucky" and win big multiple times.

It follows that luck cannot be controlled. Luck is going to manifest itself, in all likelihood, in any large-enough set of “participants.” If two people spin the slots at a casino, there is not likely going to be anything remarkable coming from it (although it’s possible!). But if fifty thousand people (to just throw out an arbitrarily large number) spin the slots, at least one of them is probably going to win big and seem “lucky.” A mathematical equivalent would be two people each spinning the slots on twenty-five thousand separate occasions—you should expect the same probability of “luck” breaking through. (It’s no coincidence that mathematics plays a strong role in describing “lucky” behavior).

A great many sources would have you believe that you can “improve” your “luck” with certain objects kept near you or certain behaviors practiced. But you cannot bring this about by making sure you wear a particular pair of socks or a rabbit's foot around your neck, or by stumbling across a four-leaf clover or any other such nonsense. Of course, anything can be symbolic for anything else. I certainly don't mean to entirely dismiss such behaviors. Anything that compels you to act in a productive manner, as abstract as it may be in reality, does hold this relevance, and nobody can take that from you. If wearing a particular pair of socks genuinely makes you feel happier and more optimistic then, by all means, wear the socks! Being happy and more optimistic has every chance of helping you to achieve the goals you're pursuing. Indeed, this is probably the "luck" you think you're attracting. But there is definitely more than a mystical force at work in such cases. Such is the power of the mind when utterly convinced.

Alternately, you won't bring misfortune upon yourself by not tossing a pinch of spilled salt over your shoulder, or by breaking a mirror, or by opening an umbrella indoors or by walking underneath a ladder. There are good reasons not to do each of these, sure: opening an umbrella indoors just makes you look silly; breaking a mirror just creates a dangerous mess (not to mention the destruction of a nice mirror); and walking underneath a ladder makes you vulnerable to falling objects (including the ladder itself). But improving your mindset is an extremely valuable thing and not entirely unrelated, and so I do not mean to demean the internal thought processes that result from such thinking… only the logical silliness of it all. Good fortune is generally brought about by clear thinking and carefully considered actions, plus a bit of skill, and variations from this trend can most likely be attributed to unforeseen consequences of actions otherwise overlooked, and by mathematical inconsistencies from the rest (traditional “luck”).

"Luck" can be a useful idea in describing the past, even up to the present if the trend continues--but it loses all relevance when imposed onto the future. You cannot influence chance. What you can do is act responsibly. In most cases “luck” is just the result of a person imposing their level-headed thinking and calculations upon the world, using these to effectively achieve that which is in their goals, and in most other cases is the result of entirely natural mathematical anomalies when a large enough pool of participants is involved in some consideration. Because when there is a .0001% chance that something remarkable will happen with the pull of a lever, one in every million people is going to enjoy that fortune, and nothing else will have any effect on these odds (if it really is a closed system—otherwise, sabotage can very well wreak havoc).


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Karma is another bit of nonsense I have deep issues with. Like with luck, there is no divine force governing the implementation of "karma" and the term only has its vague usefulness. People who “do the right thing" and treat others “well” are arguable more likely to be treated in kind than those who go out of their way to be rude and selfish and inconsiderate. But that's just cause and effect—if you're strolling down the sidewalk and you're passing by someone going the opposite way, punching them in the face is much more likely to get you punched in the face right back than not punching them in the face. This is just good old logic and "common sense." The cause and effect relationship is obvious, but each person still has their own "free will”; nothing enters the equation to guarantee that there will be retaliation. Punch a peace-loving monk in the face and they may just blink and continue on their way. They might even give you a hug. On the other hand, not punching a person in the face might still result in a punch in the face for you. Who's to say? Nobody. If somebody is going to punch you, they're going to punch you. A kind act might help to deter this just as much as a rude act may encourage it. Similarly, if a piano is likely going to fall on your head while you’re peacefully strolling down the sidewalk, it's going to fall on your head regardless of the actions you've been taking. A few more seconds spent staring at a beautiful woman might slow your advance just as much as a few extra seconds spent chasing after one might speed it up, and either case might save your life, but it’s entirely circumstantial in all its complexity. It's all circumstantial.

Less obvious are the more subtle things, like donations, compliments, volunteer work, or any other spontaneous kind gesture. Even so, there is no guarantee of "good karma" in return. Sure, you may increase the odds of being treated kindly in return, but this is only the result of somebody having been aware of your kindness and acting to repay you in some way. If you were to make some donation and absolutely nobody was aware of its source (you), then you have done nothing to increase the odds of your own good fortune. It's easy to attribute some random burst of good fortune to a kind gesture you performed in the recent past, and you might even be right--but only if the former had a direct impact on the latter. Otherwise it's pure coincidence. Like luck, this idea of karma is another example of a dangerous logical fallacy called "post hoc ergo propter hoc," that because two events are connected sequentially they must be connected causally. But there are usually so many various factors playing their role in some outcome that it is usually extremely difficult, if not reasonably impossible, to fully grasp the whole situation. For the same reason it can be extremely easy to attribute it all to one point source of cause, one that’s easy to trace, and just dismiss all others for their complexity. And as tempting as this is, when there is a seemingly obvious source cause, so extreme that all others can be dismissed entirely, this is overwhelmingly unlikely. In all likelihood you’re going to miss something crucial and misinterpret the true situation, and end up fueling a future mistake.

It's easy to test this, even with simple thought experiments. Imagine that you gave ten dollars to a homeless person out of the pure goodness of your heart. Now, if you're a particularly superstitious person you'll probably be expecting something "good" to come of it. Granted, in all likelihood, something "good" is going to happen in the near future. And once you're looking for it, the connection is easy to draw. But "good" things happen all the time. Let's just say you find ten dollars unexpectedly in the pocket of a different pair of pants later that day. A rather striking coincidence, for sure, but a coincidence nonetheless. But that ten dollars was in that pocket already. That you happened to put those pants on and reach into that pocket is nothing but circumstance. If you hadn't given the homeless person ten dollars earlier, you still would have found ten dollars in your pocket later on (and you might have attributed it to some other act of kindness in the past), unless the act played some cryptic role in pants-decision-making, or unless the ten dollars actually did materialize out of the absolute empty space inside that pocket, or if the events of your life leading up to the fateful kind gesture toward the homeless person unknowingly led you to set aside the very sum of money you hadn’t even realized you were going to so selflessly donate away. But only one of these scenarios effectively accounts for both the laws of physics as we know them and what we call “free will.”

And what if you didn't find the money? What if you got into a wreck five minutes after your act of goodwill? Would you relate this to your resulting "karma?" What if you find your home had been broken into and robbed once you finally return from the ordeal of the accident? What of this? The point is something "good" is going to happen eventually after any number of unfortunate somethings. The longer it takes, and the more significant it ends up being, the more tempting it is to draw a connection with whatever your most recent "unreturned" act of kindness was.

Even if you're not a particularly superstitious person the connection between two "good" events and two "bad" events is still sometimes hard to dismiss. If there really is a connection, it's because of the direct result of free will and cause and effect and the laws of physics and not because of some vague, all-encompassing force working to repay your efforts in kind (and along the way probably violating the physical laws and the very free will you're appreciating).

This is not to say that you shouldn't be a genuinely kindhearted person to your fellow members of humanity and to the rest of the universe, because that is the best way to be and you should reap the benefits of your good nature--this is only to say that "what goes around comes around" only applies as far as the physical laws and each person's free choice of actions causes it to be so. Good people do tend to attract other good people, and good actions do tend to attract other good actions. It's just not guaranteed and the tenuous links between most of them should not be unreasonably exaggerated as direct links.

There is no reason to get frustrated at “karma” when your boyfriend or girlfriend breaks up with you even though you selflessly donated all of your spare change to a hungry man you passed by on your way to bring him or her flowers. Potentially countless other factors had been at work for any amount of time.


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I know I wrote something about astrology a while back, but it just still bugs the *%^*(*($&^ out of me.

One of the things that baffles me more than absolutely anything else is the idea that the motions of planets and constellations holds any relevance whatsoever to our daily lives and personalities. What difference can it possibly make where Venus's apparent position is against the background constellations (which are only arbitrary "shapes," extremely vague ones at that, of which the individual stars that constitute them are separated by hundreds and thousands of light years)? Why does it mean anything different when Venus passes within the "boundaries" of Scorpio, Libra, or any of the constellations? Or when Venus passes into one and Pluto passes into another?


Speaking of Pluto, how is it reconciled that, long ago, nobody even knew Pluto existed (or Neptune, for that matter). And what happens if we discover another more distant planet? (Pluto isn’t even “officially” a planet anymore!) Apparently distance is not a factor to an astrologer's calculations--which is troubling, because in the universe as we know it every force weakens with distance. The only two forces that can be said to be affecting us as a result of the position of a planet are gravity and electromagnetism. If gravity were the force governing astrological effects, then the moon would have BY FAR the most influence. Even the gravity of mighty Jupiter has very little effect on us. The monitor in front of me is probably pulling on me harder than Jupiter is. But the moon isn't a planet, of course. And Jupiter has just as much astrological influence as tiny little Mercury. So it's not gravity. If electromagnetism were the source, then the sun would have BY FAR the most influence. But it doesn't. No other body has even the slightest noticeable effect on our lives due to its electromagnetism--and the sun only serves to fry our electronics every once in a while. So it's not electromagnetism.

So what is it? There would have to be something. And this something should be measurable, and demonstrable. Otherwise how is its influence apparently so well-known?

Another possibility that always bugs me is one in which a child is born on another planet. And I mean something way far away, some planet orbiting Alpha Centauri or something. That far away the constellations would be, for the most part, totally different (and I don’t know this to be true, so in the case that it’s not, it’s just as easy to imagine a star so far away that the constellations really do appear strikingly different from its relative position). So what is the fate of this child?? Would it just simply be unknown until thousands of years of births and analysis of personalities leads to another set of variables? What about a time far enough in the future when children are being born on dozens of different worlds far enough apart to have completely different skies? Or would these children simply be governed by the same variables as they are here on Earth? If so how could this be so?

I do need to point out that I could be wrong. Astrology could be entirely right (at least some version of it… there are so many!). It's just that in everything I've ever learned, in every bit of intuition I've ever gained, in everything that makes up the overall sense of the universe to me, everything cries out that this is wrong. Not to mention countless "astrologers" admitting that they've simply sat down and written up random "horoscopes" just for some money. If any of them are admitting it, how many of them just aren't? It is undeniably possible that the proposed force will be discovered someday, and it may be shown to actually account for some, if not all, of this crazy stuff. If this were to happen, then I'd gladly accept it! I only want to understand everything, as it can be understood. I just don't understand the vast, widespread interest in something that has absolutely no grounds in testable science (at least not in any that is readily available to be analyzed).

The time of your birth could reasonably have some effects on your personality. If you're born in the winter, your very first experiences would be of colder, darker times (assuming any exposure to the outside world), and in the summer it would be correspondingly different. This could, arguably, have some effects on your future personality, though I'm hesitant to put much thought into its usefulness. This DOES NOT, however, have anything to do with planets and constellations (other than the fact that they were, of course, somewhere in the sky at the time).

I don't know, it just sounds so utterly bogus. I do see how the daily horoscopes can be somewhat entertaining, at times, and I just hope that this is the case for everyone—mere entertainment and curiosity. Unless they know something I don't, in which case, I'd love to know it myself…

Again, anything can be symbolic to anyone; anything can bring a positive emotional response when applied effectively and rationally (maybe sometimes even irrationally if “lucky”). I most certainly approve of the idea that somebody wearing a rabbit’s foot, or avoiding ladders, or tossing spilt salt over their shoulders, or following the horoscopes, and getting some sort of inspiration from them, could be genuinely benefitting from this behavior. Although I feel like the same benefits could be gained from far more rational and practical methods, such as being analytical and careful and cautious and considerate and just all-around legitimately kindhearted and caring, it doesn't change the fact that they are benefitting. This is all I'm really trying to say. There is a fine line between superstition and the day-to-day activities which are difficult to distinguish from the things generally thought of as being supernaturally caused from careful, cautious, considerate, kindhearted, caring mannerisms. But understanding their true beginnings could very possibly go a long way in helping the majority of humankind to actually understand each other in more fundamental ways and work effectively to bring about the “best of all possible worlds” as imagined by each individual. With some exceptions the world actually usually makes sense if you care to seek it out and spend some time understanding its finer details. The results are much more gratifying and intricately beautiful than any sorts of supernaturally-accepted forces working to reward individual gestures of manipulation or goodwill at the expense of the collective free will of humanity, let alone the physical laws which have yet to exhibit any trace of localized exception as repayment.

Posted by Eli Stanley | at 9:11 PM | 0 comments

This Long, Awkward Silence

(October 23rd, 2011)



Remember that ultra-generic question we used to toss around as kids, “Do you believe in aliens?” Have you ever really stopped to wonder what this simple question is implying? On the physical surface there is no reason not to “believe in aliens.” The existence of aliens would not violate any known physical laws, as opposed to the existence of the subject of another similar ultra-generic question, say, of ghosts. Of course, I’m sure the question as most people pose it is not only suggesting the existence of extraterrestrial life in any form, but of intelligent extraterrestrials. I have come to the realization over the years that the meaning, based on the form of the question itself, of whether or not one “believes” in the existence of “aliens” comes up rather short when all things are considered—because there are actual observations that could be made, statistics to consider, and models to analyze, none of which intrinsically contradict the idea. In fact it is, arguably, rather logical to assume at least the possibility that such a case is, indeed, the case, and always has been—and always will be. So far this long, awkward silence returning all of our efforts has yet to provide us with any hard evidence. But some extraterrestrial civilization out there somewhere in the cosmos, going about its existence, entirely unknown to us (so far), does not defy anything fundamental, whereas the existence of ghosts would definitely raise some serious questions.

Of course, I understand that the same thing could be said of the existence of ghosts… an actual observation could very well be made at some point, and their reality could very well be proven physically. But when, as of this moment (and as far as I know), there is absolutely no shred of evidence to suggest that such a thing could be real without interfering with the demonstrable physical laws which make such intricate, beautiful sense of the world (emphasis on the word “evidence,” because no number of eyewitness accounts, no matter how powerful or convincing, necessarily means anything), then it really dwindles the amount of effort worth putting forth to entertain the notion (never to zero of course). I don’t mean to get in depth into this argument, but just on the surface of the idea I find it wildly difficult to imagine just a few of the factors involved in the considerations of the existence of ghosts—perhaps most of all, aside from what seems to be an all-too-convenient lack of demonstrable evidence, is the problem of how rare the “sightings” are, when one considers how many people have ever lived and how many such “souls” should be roaming around practically every square inch of the planet if the idea held any meaning. Most alleged cases of hauntings seem to stem from some troubled spirit that lingers on because of some “unfinished business” or some other physical tie to a certain location. And most of these hauntings seem to infect old buildings, which makes “sense” because of the simple age of the place, and the number of people who lived there throughout its history, and perhaps because of individual cases of particularly brutal situations during the time span of the “tortured soul’s” life.

But the very same argument raises questions because vast numbers of people presumably lived over practically every inhabited square inch of the planet throughout all of its history, and unless ghosts are naturally confined to the physical walls of the very same buildings they were living within, and only become “trapped” within them IF they died within such walls, then I don’t see a reason why there aren’t the very same troubled spirits wandering among every single person’s yard, or driveway, or just along the streets and fields everywhere. Unless ghosts did not start becoming spiritually attached to locations until the start of humanity’s building construction, and just happen to disappear if the building is demolished, and/or naturally disappear after some bizarre length of time, then they should be all over the place. I’m sure that many “troubled souls” have died on the very physical spot where my house resides, somewhere close to where I am actually sitting right now, but this particular building doesn’t (as far as I know) have a troubled history of its own, and so apparently this is why it’s not haunted. Or maybe it’s just not haunted simply because I think the idea is bogus. But that’s another problem… ghosts should not only exist while the people who are around to potentially witness their orneriness “believe” in them. If they truly exist they should make their mark regardless of location, or the presence of a building’s structure, or the belief of the people who are around (unless one would argue that the spirits can somehow sense whether or not a person is prone to believe in such things, and only suggest their own presence when this is the case). There are clearly very many logical issues associated with this idea, and this is all the space that I will devote to the argument in this particular writing.

Very similar arguments could be made of the practically countless alleged UFO sightings from all over the world. Just like other “supernatural” events, UFOs should not only present themselves to believers, or to people who are conveniently in the middle of nowhere or in some other way have no means to provide demonstrable evidence in the wake of the event. Unless the aliens are carefully choosing who to appear to, and have all of the necessary skills to make sure that no credible evidence is ever able to be provided, then there should be plenty of legitimate cases. This also assumes the government isn’t actually interfering with any such potentially legitimate case, and working to cover them up from the rest of the world that way. But this seems just as incredible as the overly-convenient lack of proof from the former explanation. People seem to be not only so eager to proclaim our government’s lack of organization and ability to work together and overall effectiveness, but simultaneously seem just as willing to believe that they could so completely cover up all demonstrable evidence of any number of extraterrestrial visitations (not to mention any other governments which would have to be in on it). I for one do not see how both of these realities could be. It could, of course, actually be the correct explanation, but… wow.

Clearly the belief—more specifically, the demonstration which would finally confirm such a belief—in the existence of aliens hinges pretty much entirely on the advancements of technology which will enable us to at last be able to detect their existence. Either that or such an alien presence would have to make their existence known to us. But again, this is not fundamentally the same as saying that some other “paranormal” entity needs only to be detected or make its presence known to us, because (again) an alien intelligence making its presence known to us would not question our understanding of the physical laws of the Universe, but only perhaps would question our understanding of the statistics we’ve applied to this event’s likelihood. We’re not asking for our basic understanding of the Universe to be shaken here, but only for a confirmation that would finally put the endless arguments to rest. We would go from thinking well it’s very, very, very unlikely that any extraterrestrial civilization is going to demonstrate their existence for us to witness to well an extraterrestrial civilization just demonstrated their existence for us to witness. And in the wake of such a monumental discovery nothing held sacred to our cherished understanding of the physical Universe needs to be drastically altered. (Well, unless they used a wormhole to get to us—that would question quite a few things, but would hopefully answer just as many!)

You can find life teeming in practically any place you might care to look, just about absolutely anywhere on this planet. Life is flourishing in the deepest depths of the oceans, in the highest reaches of the atmosphere, in puddles of radioactive waste, in volcanoes, in isolated conditions buried under perpetual ice, in harsh laboratory conditions, in practically all of the places we humans would hardly ever dream of exploring and who knows how many other places. Life has conquered just about every single niche that this lone planet has to offer, and yet we still have not uncovered any substantial evidence that life has ever existed anywhere else in the Universe. To me this idea is one of the most provoking of all in the considerations of life existing elsewhere, that you could go out into your own backyard with a spoon and scoop up a small sample of soil and find millions of organisms thriving within. But we can’t do the same thing anywhere else without getting ourselves out there. Robotic probes are a reasonable, respectable second, but with so much data exchange and mechanical processes occurring over so many thousands upon thousands of miles, efficiency and reliability suffer.

There are some dangerous areas within this idea, though. Of course the tiny microscopic organisms you would observe thriving within a spoonful of backyard soil are a huge long shot from the sorts of highly intelligent extraterrestrial beings which we most hope to discover (not that simple organisms would not be a monumental discovery in its own right), but the principle behind the idea is no less incredible—that life seems to be abundant where the conditions for life are favorable. But we also happen to live on the only known world where conditions for life (as we know them) are abundantly favorable. Mars, for example, is a vague possibility, but its atmosphere is so negligible and it’s so cold except for some fleeting periods, under certain conditions, where local temperatures can actually reach room temperature. Saturn’s moon Titan, and quite a few other moons of the gas giants are potential locations where liquid water might be sloshing around underneath icy exteriors, but we have yet to actually confirm any of them. And so the wild abundance of life on Earth is not necessarily enough of an argument for the necessary existence of life elsewhere, because we do not yet know that such conditions are even remotely likely anywhere else. Fleetingly warm temperatures are not enough, apparently, from what we can tell at this moment.

There are certain conditions which are pretty much universally accepted as being necessary to the development of life in any complexity, which include (to point out just a few major ones) the existence of liquid water, reasonable temperatures, substantial atmosphere and sufficient makeup of it, plenty of organic chemicals as building blocks and nutrients, and radiation protection. Many of these issues seem to require the presence of a given planet in its host star’s habitable zone, which is the range in which the planet would not be too close to or too far from the star to prohibit these conditions to exist. The range is rather small given the extreme distances that planets seem likely to exist in. In our own solar system, for example, both Mars and Venus are at the “edges” of the sun’s hypothetical habitable zone, although as I understand things Mars is somewhat better situated (without even considering the ridiculously harsh conditions unique to Venus). Even so, it seems to be too far away and other variables such as planetary mass, magnetic fields and geological activity also factor into the considerations and Mars has very little atmosphere, a negligible magnetic field, and little if any geological activity.

Clearly, the conditions for life to thrive (as we know them) are rather severe if the other bodies of our own solar system are any indication. The big emphasis, though, is on “as we know them” because there is, understandably, a lot to debate and ponder on how life might thrive under entirely different circumstances. And so the argument is wildly complicated and thus so is the search for potentially thriving environments.

There is an equation, developed by Frank Drake in the ‘60s, which attempts to address, logically, the likelihood of any number of extraterrestrial civilizations which presently exist. Although understandably very controversial, the equation undoubtedly stirs many interesting arguments for various possibilities and is important even if for these thoughtful reasons alone. The famous equation is:

 N = R* x fp x ne x fe x fi x fc x L


Where “N” represents the number of extraterrestrial civilizations capable of communicating, “R*” represents the average rate of star formation per year in our galaxy, “fp” represents the fraction of these stars that have developed planets, “ne” represents the average number of such planets that can potentially support life, “fl” represents the fraction of such planets that actually do develop life, “fi” represents the fraction of such planets that actually develop intelligent life (civilizations), “fc” represents the fraction of such civilizations that develop detectable signs of their existence into space, and “L” represents the length of time that such civilizations release such detectable signals (in other words, how long until they either destroy themselves or simply stop broadcasting signals). It is most definitely worth noting that all of these, except perhaps the very first variable, are entirely hypothetical. At this point it’s all guesswork. And this is why the thought-provoking nature of this idea remains the most relevant quality of all.

According to the “Drake Equation” Wikipedia article as of this writing, the most current estimates (for whatever that’s worth) are that “R*” (the rate of star formation of our galaxy per year) has a value of 7, “fp” (the fraction of such stars that have developed planets) is .5, “ne” (the average number of such planets that can potentially support life) is 2, “fl” (the fraction of such planets that actually do develop life) is .33, “fi” (the fraction of such planets that actually develop intelligent life) is .01, “fc” (the fraction of such civilizations that develop detectable signs of their existence into space) is .01, and “L” (the length of time that such civilizations release detectable signals) is 10,000 years. Based on all of these assumptions, the value of “N” (the number of extraterrestrial civilizations capable of communicating) is 2.31, which suggests that, at this point in time (or any other when these variables are still relevant), there are 2 civilizations capable of communicating their existence out into the cosmos.

Because of its controversy, there is very much debate over how reasonable these particular variables actually are, especially when considering such factors as how often life might re-arise on a planet before finally establishing “intelligence,” and how many planets might be influenced by an outside intelligence (such as seeding, a hypothesis which is not entirely overlooked for our own beginnings, or perhaps a case in which a developing civilization is visited and warned about the dangers of making itself known to all others). Such theories add quite a bit of complication to such an all-encompassing equation, but the general idea (successively calculating the rate of star formation, the rate of planetary formation, the rate of development of simple life, the rate of development of intelligent life, and the rate of the fall of intelligent life) still stands strong as a foundation for trying to predict such likelihoods. There are any numbers of other assumptions which could be made which would throw out just about any reasonably-attempted guess at most of these variables.

And so, any person attempting to assign a set of reasonable values to these parameters could potentially get anywhere within a wildly enormous range of conclusions, anywhere from (not limited to) the pessimistic view of only 0.000065 communicable civilizations to the optimistic view of 20,000 communicable civilizations. The worst case scenarios seem to suggest that we are, almost without a doubt, the ONLY intelligent beings in the Universe, while the more optimistic scenarios seem to suggest that we  are likely just one of many, many thousands (or more!) of such intelligent civilizations. You can input your own assumptions into each of these variables and, hopefully, have some interesting thought processes into why this result may or may not be the likely case when all things are considered.

Such complications lead my thoughts (as I hope they lead yours, as well) toward another very wide-encompassing argument, popularly known as the “Fermi Paradox” which is the apparent contradiction between the high probability for, and the lack of evidence of, extraterrestrial civilizations. As is made clear by the (more optimistic) various possible inputs for the Drake Equation, many combinations suggest that there should be a great many, if not only a few, other intelligent civilizations out there in the Universe. Yet we have absolutely no evidence for a single one, and so this “paradox” (more of a contradiction) seems to need explaining, for which there are many, many proposed explanations to explain this long, awkward silence that we have become so accustomed to and so apprehensive of. There are many arguments centered on this "Fermi Paradox" idea, which I hope my sharing might help to refine any reader’s own thoughts on the variables of the Drake equation just as they have my own. Some of these arguments I'd considered long and hard even before first encountering it but now have considered much longer and harder, along with plenty of fascinating and thoughtful new arguments, which include the following:


--No other civilizations have arisen.

This is obviously the most wide-ranging and optimism-halting assumption of all… because if no other civilizations have ever risen, and we are the only ones who have ever pondered our own existence and the vastness of the cosmos we are part of, then of course we are going to come up short in all of our searches, forever. There really isn’t much else to say about this argument, because it is so all-powerful and, by definition, we won’t ever actually truly know this to be the case. We will forever search, and forever come up disappointingly empty. Personally, I do not “believe” this to be the case, although observable evidence does not yet rule it out. It is simply me believing. Belief is so valuable in such a case, where hard evidence seems always just out of reach, because perseverance in our search could very well spell the difference between eventual contact and the halting of all such efforts altogether—which at times does not seem so far from happening with all the budget cuts and program cancellations. But such a belief should never get in the way if we ever do come across evidence that we truly are the only ones (if that’s even possible). Believing is only reasonable amidst such abundant uncertainty, which might very well always be the case… but there are other possibilities which could explain why this long, awkward silence is the case even if we really never find anything.


--Few, if any, other civilizations currently exist.

This theory at least allows for the possible existence of other intelligent civilizations, although it assumes that they are so few and far between that none of them will likely ever become aware of any of the others because of the vast distances and time delays between them. Perhaps there is, at this very moment, another intelligent civilization five thousand light years away—it will take five thousand years for any possible signals to reach us. Even if, against all odds, they were at a comparable technological level with us five thousand years ago, any signals they might have emanated out into space at the time would just now be reaching us and even then we would only recognize them if they were unique enough to be recognized amidst all of the background noises of various naturally-occurring signals coming at us from all over the sky. Even in this most optimistic case—even if we did pick up such a signal, and were able to verify its celestial origin, and were overjoyed that they seem to be technologically similar to us, we would have to accept that it’s a five thousand year-old signal and very, very likely no longer represents the status of the civilization it originated from. A lot will happen in five thousand years—they might not even exist anymore, or they might be totally unrecognizable from the signal they sent out so long ago. Such a case is very likely only reasonable for contact if the civilization was close enough to us (say, a couple dozen light years at most) to still be relevant at the time of acquisition, or if they just simply hadn’t developed further and were still comparatively technological from that point in time (which does not seems likely in the slightest). But, still, any detection at all would prove the point that a civilization did exist, at the very least. Perhaps that simple knowledge is all we can reasonably hope for…


--It is the nature of intelligent life to destroy itself.

This is perhaps the most depressing of all of the theories suggesting why we have had no observational evidence of, or contact with, an extraterrestrial civilization. Admittedly,  much of the concern over this idea stems from the Cold War days, when it was very much a legitimate fear that a couple world powers would overindulge their paranoia and set off a chain reaction of nuclear detonations which would, very likely, result in the self-extinguishing of our species. And so it’s only one small leap forward to consider the idea that other civilizations might have run into similar troubles, since by our own experience (the only case we have to evaluate) it seems that technological development goes hand-in-hand with the development of ever-more destructive weaponry, and so any such developed civilization is likely to have dealt with similar issues amongst themselves. I sincerely hope that this needs not always be the case, but of course with only one example to learn from there isn’t really any demonstrable reason to believe that any other species would necessarily act differently. But I certainly hope that another might have developed just slightly differently enough to have either never developed such savage weaponry or, at least, never have come to even the slightest provocation of even considering utilizing it. I like to hope that we humans are past this phase ourselves, and the sum of our nuclear arsenals will forever remain nothing more than deterrence from actual usage. If this is likely the same case everywhere, then so be it. Overcoming such a global trial should definitely help to instill a sense of oneness, of the vast benefits that species-wide cooperation should aspire to. At least it should help to develop the appreciations of life, and cooperation, and perhaps is just a typical stepping stone in a civilization’s evolution among itself, and in the end fosters so much more devotion to goodwill and acceptance while never actually bringing about the widespread destruction that we ourselves have feared for so long. In such a case, the fact that a civilization still survives long after its own such Cold War age will hopefully suggest that they have come to peaceful terms with themselves and are that much more ready to spread their influence out into the wild unknown where it could perhaps meet up with other such burgeoning intelligences and achieve the truly cooperative beauty that only our greatest science fiction writers have dreamed of.


--It is the nature of intelligent life to destroy others.

This theory is somewhat similar to the previous one, although suggests the disturbing possibility that another intelligent civilization would use its technological prowess not only to develop powerful weaponry, but to use such weaponry to eliminate other “competing” civilizations (probably only after moving past the self-destructive phase touched on above). I hope that this theory can be discounted on the grounds that it’s either not relevant or, if it ever turns out to be relevant, we won’t be (or wouldn’t have been) around much longer to consider its implications. Personally I don’t like the idea of advanced, space-faring civilizations taking a liking to wiping out each other. I think they would be much more appreciative to what each other has to offer, intellectually and resource-wise, and in working together to achieve higher goals than each could aspire to individually. But this is, of course, hopeful thinking—I have no demonstrable reason to proclaim this to be true. I just like to think that civilizations which are in all likelihood vastly more advanced than we are would not concern themselves with destructive tendencies. Depressingly, the nature of civilizations to wipe each other out is not so far-flung from the nature of our own race while establishing new terrains even on our own planet, and it goes without saying that any space-faring civilization has technological powers we can still only dream of. So let’s just hope and pray that this particular argument does not actually hold any actual reality, because otherwise the wonders of the Universe are not places which are in our best interests to investigate.


--Human beings were created alone.

This is, clearly, primarily a religious point of view, for which it should not be discounted entirely—because, all things considered equal, demonstrable evidence has yet (if ever) to suggest that we were not created as “special” beings. But I like to stress, even in line with (admittedly not particularly literal) biblical considerations, we could have been created, here in our solar system with all of our uniqueness, apart from any number of other extraterrestrial beings who may even have “special conditions” themselves in which they are showered with praise and admiration of their own but have, perhaps like us, no physical means to ever communicate with another due to mere distances and/or any of these other theories. (I realize that this argument contradicts the initial premise of having been “created alone” but I’m considering “alone” as meaning that we will forever remain ignorant of any number of other created beings.) If we will never become aware of any others, what’s the difference?

But even so there is that possibility that we were created entirely alone in this vast Universe and as Carl Sagan liked to say, “Isn’t that an awful waste of space?”

But of course, turned around, the same idea could be said as something like “Isn’t that a wonderfully beautiful use of space?” Look at all of the wild imaginations and daydreams and inspirations that are brought about simply from looking up into the sky and being curious. There is a place in my heart that appreciates that all of this wonder could possibly be ours, and only ours, to appreciate. If there is a person alive who is not at least occasionally, when their eyes and their curious minds are allowed to wander, completely awestruck by the considerations of the beauty and vastness and potentials of the Universe all around us, then I would be genuinely surprised to say the least. But I really do hope, with all of the might that I wish the sheer force of my will could possibly hope to extend, that such wonder is much more widespread and able to be shared between unimaginably different civilizations—both individually and cooperatively


--It is the nature of intelligent life to remain silent.

What if there are intelligent civilizations all over the place out there in the vast reaches of the Universe, but they just don’t broadcast their existence in any powerful way? Such a consideration is so wide-reaching in its implications because it could mean that any numbers of extraterrestrial civilizations are out there and yet we might very well never, ever be made aware of their presence. There is a potentially infinite number of reasons for such behavior, but the most reasonable to me seem to be that such communication is all but fruitless considering the ridiculous distances and time frames involved in such attempts at communication; the expensive nature of continuously trying to make such broadcasts, both in resources and time; the possibility that any given civilization knows of some danger it would bring on itself by such a broadcast (such as another civilization receiving it and invading) or just chooses to remain silent by this mere possibility alone; or perhaps because they simply don’t trust any potential recipients to return their efforts in kind. Another civilization may be reluctant for one or any combination of these reasons, and more, and so the simple lack of evidence is therefore called into question—as Carl Sagan liked to popularize, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Never, ever receiving a communication is not necessarily proof, indeed not even powerful evidence, that there are no intelligent civilizations out there to communicate. It may simply just mean that they are not communicating.

--They choose not to interact with us.

But perhaps our efforts so far have not proved fruitless, and our presence is indeed known to at least one other intelligent civilization (or maybe not by our own efforts, but by observations of our planet’s atmosphere, or by some other unknown method). It could very well be that these civilizations, however many there might be, are willingly choosing not to interact with us, for any number of reasons—the ones that most readily come to mind are the possibilities that they have somehow observed our lifestyles, and have deemed us unworthy of relations perhaps either because of “childishness” or outright “barbarism” on our part, or maybe because we happen to be in a period of development in which it is best not to intervene in any way, maybe either by “common sense” or by some galactic code of conduct. Perhaps we have not yet proven that we are “mature” enough not only to handle the implications of extraterrestrial communications but to handle the responsibilities of some sort of “friendship” or “collaboration” that might be desired of us. This does not seem like much of a stretch of the imagination, given the current state of the world (not to sound like the generic pessimist proclaiming that we are doing everything wrong—I do like to think that we, as a species, have many admirable traits which would actually help to impress another civilization if they were indeed observing our nature).

I can’t say I really blame them for being apprehensive, if such is the case, but I hope that, if it is, they might soon see enough “good” in us to at least realize that a simple communication, or even some helpful assistance, could be of great use to us. I believe we still yet have every reason and every chance to aspire to any level of greatness that any of these supposed extraterrestrial civilizations could respect and seek (or accept) friendly relations with. But then again I do not know their mind, and I am of course only arguing the best attempt at a logically emotion-fueled consideration of why no contact has so far been made. No single person can ever hope to speak for the entire human race, and if the actions of powers anywhere around the globe are painting us in a ghastly light then there really isn’t much hope other than the furthering collective efforts of the people who actually can make the global improvements that might deem us worthy of contact. If I could I would rise up and lead humanity out of its unnecessary internal struggles toward such a bright future, not just because it might increase our favor in the eyes of some potential extraterrestrial contact, but because it would provide us with unimaginable benefits amongst ourselves regardless.

--Communication is impossible, for technical reasons and/or due to problems of scale.

Even assuming that there is a generous collection of intelligent civilizations out there going about their entirely alien existences, the average space between them would still be astronomical—the average distance between 1,000 civilizations inside our galaxy would be 10,000 light years. In some respects, 1,000 civilizations seem so incredibly few considering the unimaginable vastness of just our own galaxy and all of the stars, and in turn all of the potential planets. But then again 1,000 civilizations like us (or quite possibly much more advanced) also seems incredibly many considering all of the arguments centered around the remarkably rare conditions for which such highly evolved life is apparently required to come about. And 10,000 years (the time it would require for speed-of-light transmissions to reach across such a distance) is a long, long time when one really considers how far we have come in the same amount of time—10,000 years ago we had nothing even remotely close to any technology that could broadcast our existence. Indeed, we have only had such technology for roughly (very roughly) 100 years. And already we are moving away from the technologies that readily broadcast their signals into space—presumably the first transmissions which would be possible for an extraterrestrial civilization to detect would be some television broadcasts in the 1930s or so, and of course all other such signals in the following years, but today most television signals are sent through cables at the surface and much, much less so through broadcast technology.

Unless yet-to-be technologies are discovered and implemented soon, much of the evidence of our existence due to freely broadcast transmissions are no longer relevant. And if we assume that another technologically advanced civilization follows anything close to our own habits, theirs will not last so long either. Of course, this argument does not include any deliberately broadcast signals, such as those that are sent out by the METI program, and so there is always some glimmer of hope. But considering all of the opposition to such an apparently expensive and time-consuming operation, such a program might not be around much longer in any wide-reaching capacity. Unless we expect such an extraterrestrial civilization to continue actively and aggressively attempting to make contact, even where we ourselves have halted much of the same attempts, then any such broadcasts are arguably very likely to be as short-lived as our own might soon turn out to have been. And 100 years, on any cosmic time frame, is not very long at all…

--It is too expensive to spread physically throughout the galaxy.

In all honesty, this one here seems to be the most realistic of all in my own mind. We have only been to the moon (as astronauts), aside from Earth orbit, and that was WILDLY expensive. Even today, with so much more knowledge and experience, the same program would still be ridiculously expensive (perhaps even more so, as I imagine the technologies and safety requirements involved would be much more aggressive). Even the best traditional chemical rockets take years upon years to get just to the outer solar system—to date, the fastest spacecraft (Earth-relative) we’ve ever sent out into space, the New Horizons mission on its way to Pluto, is going to take nine years to reach its destination, and that’s actually only a fraction of the true extent of our solar system (the Oort Cloud, the supposed “true” boundary of our solar system, is assumed to extend as far as a full light-year from the Sun). This craft, New Horizons, was left with an Earth-relative velocity of roughly 36,000 miles per hour (oh, how I wish we Americans would adopt the Metric System), although it has since slowed slightly to its current velocity of 35,000 miles per hour. This (unmanned) mission cost an estimated 650 million dollars over the life of its (as-yet-unfinished) journey, all things considered. Although not to trivialize the mission in any way (I have enormous respect for it), this is, again, an unmanned mission sent to study one faraway object (and, of course, other objects in its vicinity, such as a few moons).

It goes without saying that, with current technology and economics, any long-reaching mission (manned or not) is expensive pretty much beyond all hope of reason. Arguably, we could send such a probe, with a similar velocity, toward a faraway star that has potentially high hopes of being populated, but even accepting all costs and difficulties associated with such a few such prospects it would take years and years to even arrive there. Even New Horizons would take well over 70,000 years to reach even the nearest star (or star system), Alpha Centauri. And we don’t even have good reason to believe that this destination is even a decent choice in finding extraterrestrials.

It seems painfully obvious that unless some fundamental breakthrough in space-faring technology is discovered there will never be a realistic way to reach even our closest interstellar neighborhoods, but of course we could go ahead and send a New Horizons-like probe towards Alpha Centauri and hope for a return on our investments roughly 150,000 years from now. So it follows that some extraterrestrial civilization out there would have to have developed some ridiculously efficient method of interstellar travel to be able to come anywhere near us; either that or the idea of civilizations spreading progressively throughout the galaxy, over generation after generation, gradually increasing the area of their influence, would have to be taking place in order for them to come anywhere close to another. And maybe this really has been happening over eons. Maybe our current methods at communication attempts just aren’t effective enough to pick up any signals from such civilizations, for any of the above reasons. Maybe they’ve expanded all the way to Alpha Centauri already. Maybe they’ve been closely monitoring us for eons. Maybe they even have probes of their own carefully hidden within the asteroid belt, or in the shadows of the moon’s craters, where we’re never likely going to notice them. Maybe they’ll be upon us soon.

Or maybe there aren’t any out there.

Whatever the case, I for one will never stop imagining, letting my curious mind wander and dreaming of the day when another civilization is brought into contact with us and unimaginable secrets of life, the Universe, and everything are readily shared with us, happily provided so that we can emerge out of these tragic depths of greed and poverty and self-destruction and truly set out to make use of the vastness of the Universe as we have every reason to desire and acquire. So our resources are dwindling… every resource here on this planet is undoubtedly found on others (probably very near to us!). So there is conflict between and within all of these arbitrary boundaries we’ve established all over our planet… branching out into space, utilizing the collective efforts of (practically) all powers in order to do so, is pretty much the most significant, meaningful cooperation I can imagine. I deeply believe that such accomplishments would do so much to help unify us. And if we actually do encounter intelligence out there, or even simple microscopic life, then our existence, relevant to us, full of so many ethical and national boundaries and conflicts of interests though it might be, will be demonstrably that much more powerful. It will mean that much more to be human, to be part of a single collection of similar beings, no matter how different any two of us appear to be. In the face of a new discovery of extraterrestrial life, the two most demonstrably different people on the planet will in relation appear to be practically no different at all. If that possibility doesn’t stir the most deeply-cherished feelings of belonging and collective-worth in a person, then I don’t think they truly understand the implications… or they just literally don’t care in the slightest. But I’d prefer not to even consider the latter as a possibility, unless I’m just completely wrong about human nature… in which case I guess I’d prefer to just continue being completely wrong.

It just seems like such an awfully large amount of space for one single intelligent race to develop into. But of course such a belief doesn’t necessarily prove anything… this very well could be the case for any combination of the reasons I’ve touched on. But I really do hope that we, as our own race, unified whether or not any of us believe that to be the case in light of all of these complicated circumstances, keep on searching. This long, awkward silence will either continue forever, in which case we will become more and more sensitive to our apparently-unique position of intelligence in the Universe, or we will discover something, and whether or not we ever actually make physical contact, we will know, at long last, that we are not alone, and humanity thus has every reason to appreciate all of our traits which might prove to be unique to us still, even when existence itself is no longer.

And if contact is at long last made with another civilization and this long, awkward silence is finally broken, then who knows, maybe we could even teach them a thing or two about life, the Universe, and everything.

Posted by Eli Stanley | at 11:06 PM | 0 comments