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Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Bathtub Test

Let's take a break from serious topics and smile.  Author of the text is unknown. I merely made the graphicEnjoy!



- Ariel Murphy

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

There's More to Life Than Being Happy: Meaning



Are you happy? Apparently, there is a connection between being happy and having a meaningful life.

In my January 23, 2013 blog, I wrote about "randomness" and finding "meaning."  My question in that blog was "If you were a firm believer in randomness and in the absence of order in the universe why would you even look for a meaning in life?"

Interestingly, as I surfed the net  a few minutes ago looking for something interesting to blog about, I stumbled upon an article that  addresses my question in my previous blog.  I thought it a strange coincidence that my computer would immediately open to a page that directly relates to the question I had asked.  Could the universe have been listening to me?

In the January 9, 2013 issue of The Atlantic, Emily Esfahani Smith, wrote about Viktor Frankl, a prominent psychiatrist, neurologist, Nazi death camp survivor and author of  Man's Search for Meaning.

Smith narrated a story of how when Frankl was in high school, a teacher said that life is  "nothing more than a combustion process, a process of oxidation."  Frankl responded by asking: "Sir, if this is so, then what could be the meaning of life?"

Here are  some of the thought-provoking  highlights of Emily Smith's article:

1.  There is a correlation between being happy and finding meaning in life;

2. The search for meaning distinguishes humans from animals;

3.  Finding meaning is a choice and involves realizing that there is something in life, bigger than one's self, to sacrifice and live for;

4. Happiness is fleeting whereas finding meaning is not;

5. The mere pursuit of individual happiness is a selfish behavior; while the search for  meaning involves having, or looking to, something larger than one's self. "Meaning transcends the self while happiness is all about giving the self what it wants"; and

6. Our society emphasizes more the pursuit of individual happiness than the search for meaning.

I invite you to read Emily Smith's work  and  share your thoughts. Here's the link  to Smith's article (please copy and paste on your broser:
http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/01/theres-more-to-life-than-being-happy/266805/

What do you think?


 - Ariel Murphy

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Full Circle


There is muted beauty in areas struck by forest fires. 

I would photograph topless, leafless trees with blackened branches and broken stems as much as I would  grand leafy trees that beckon: "sit by me."

In their jarring appearance, the fire victims speak of our amazing eco-system and how out of devastation, birds, bees, the wind, rain -- all miraculously make new growth possible.

Patiently awaiting deliverance from its charred and maimed state,  trees still reach for the sky and life continues its wonderful circle of death and renewal.


 Link: "Life is Wonderful"

- Ariel Murphy 
 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Unexpected Blessings

You never can tell what's going to happen on a Friday.  Pia, a very close friend,  and I had driven to the other side of the Big Island to run errands and relax. We've both had a distressful week and felt we needed to let go and have fun. We were looking forward to having a nice dinner and dancing after.

Pia is a high-functioning business woman with  Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  She chatted  incessantly and with no mercy during the 2-hour drive to our destination .  I was very patient and thought myself fortunate that we were not in my house. She often stops  for a visit, usually at about 11 PM and stays till 3 AM talking her head off while I work on my blog or while I do my best to keep my face from falling  on the keyboard.

It doesn't matter whether or not I'm able to listen.

My hard-fought interruptions to ask her if she had taken her medication for the day never faze her either.

After our errands were done, we were driving to get dinner when we saw smoke billowing out the vehicle's front.  We parked as quickly as we could along the side of the 6-lane highway and lifted the car's hood to cool the overheated engine.

Except for the lights of cars that whisked by we were in the dark, literally and figuratively speaking.  Many only passed us by oblivious to or ignoring our obvious need for help. Eventually, a  police car did pull up behind us but strangely, without anyone even getting out, the police car went back on the highway and simply drove on.

Just  as I was to give up my faith on humanity, an SUV with two middle-aged  men pulled up, checked under the hood, and determined that a leak  was depriving the poor radiator of water. The good Samaritans warned us not to drive the troubled car and helped us limp it to the nearest gas station.

In the meantime, I had joined Pia's chatter and worried aloud about spending the night in her car. The prospect of an entire evening in the car with Pia, who talks even while she sleeps, did not really excite me.

Finally, Pia remembered that she had just received  the policy for the towing service she signed up with some weeks ago and searched for it so she can call.   We both let out a sigh of relief after a long wait on the phone to  find out if the service will agree to tow the car and take us  along the 130 mile-drive through Saddle Road (a highway that straddles 2 mountains and is often foggy) all the way to the farthest corner of the island's other side.

The tow truck came with a jolly and kind driver who liked listening to rock music and  entertained us with accounts of seeing shooting stars while going through Saddle Road at night.  He didn't mind being accompanied on the long drive by two strange women -- one continuously chattering while the other dancing like an idiot under her seatbelt. I did say sorry for saddling him with two loonies.

"Oh please don't apologize. I've never had anyone dancing in my truck until now. This is quite an experience," he assured me with a laugh.

I danced in the cab of the truck relieved at the assurance that Pia and I were safe and would be sleeping on our own beds. I was joyful going between the mountains with music, laughter, and the comforting warmth of friendship.

Just as the truck  went past the mountains,  we saw right before our eyes a shower of meteors.  Pia was dumbstruck.  The driver pulled over and turned off the music. In the quiet and magic of the night, I  thought my heart would burst in gratitude.
 
Blessings come in many forms. Yep. Even in times of adversity and disappointment.

Photo by Ken Brandon, National Geographic
  
The following links to a song I heard during my Friday adventure:


- Ariel Murphy

Friday, January 25, 2013

On the Road to Alice Creek (IN MEMORIAM)



On the road to Alice Creek one day, a dazzling unicorn appeared out of nowhere and planted itself along my path.

 "Would you like to see magic"? Its eyes spoke to me as I stood mesmerized.  "Yes," I answered mutely. The creature laid  low and invited me to sit on its back.  And off we flew into the swirling clouds.

From above, I saw below giraffes  with shimmering rainbow spots. There was a grove of blinking and winking Aspens; some rolling their eyes. We flew over an endless field of sage wafting fragrance so strong you can touch it. A mountain range was bellowing laughter. And at its foot was a mirror-lake that was fast cracking and emitting the shrill tinkling of breaking crystal. 

As the unicorn moved on, I heard the sound of fiddles and tambourines coming from a misty forest. In a clearing men and women dressed from another age were dancing with frenzy to a brisk tarantella.

Confused and overwhelmed, I begged the unicorn to bring me down. Finally, it landed gently on a meadow still gleaming with the day's remaining dewdrops . I got off the creature's back in a daze.

I turned my face in time to see the unicorn slowly fading until it vanished. Shaking in fear,  I started looking around  me and detected movement in a nearby grove of pines. I  tottered,  drawn to the trees. There, I saw a bucking stallion with pricked ears facing backwards, swishing tails, and wrinkled nose -- obviously spirited and wild. Thistles dotting its shiny black coat told me it had gone through some thorny bushes.

Fascinated, I slowly moved to touch it and carefully laid my quaking hand on its neck.

As it felt my flesh against its body, the stallion stood still.

He slowly turned his head, fixed his eyes on me and there, on the road to Alice Creek one enchanted afternoon, he whispered...

Yes dear.

On the road to Alice Creek



"So runs my dream, but what am I?
An infant crying in the night
An infant crying for the light
And with no language but a cry."

-- From " In Memoriam" by Alfred Lord Tennyson

 - Ariel Murphy
 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dolphin Trust: Destroyers and Saviors


At a hotel-resort adjacent to the ocean in Waikoloa, Hawaii,  I watched a dolphin play with its trainer and other resort guests. The dolphin displayed its many capabilities. On cue, it stood on the water and spun. making me and my fellow spectators clap in delight. I can only surmise that like me, the others were awed by how much the dolphin seemed to want to please.

 But what I found to be really noteworthy was the dolphin's willingness to be touched; and not just at its dorsal side but also its ventral side -- its underbelly. I thought of how much the dolphin trusted us humans enough to expose its sensitive part and allowed hands to touch it.  

Unfortunately, some human hands reach out to a dolphin not to pet but to kill.  Every year, the inhabitants of Feroe Island in Denmark allegedly celebrate a rite of passage  that calls for the slaughter of hundreds of pilot dolphins.

The dolphins don't die instantly. "They are cut 1, 2, 3 times with thick hocks," said a posting on snopes.com, which also published a number of photos one of which is below.


Perhaps dolphins, in general, have no memories. Either that or they are quick to forgive and forget cruelty they have had to endure from humans.

Recently in Hawaii, a trusting dolphin sought a human's help. As shown in the link below, a fellow human rose to the occasion and rescued the dolphin.

That act of compassion was the least the rescuer can do on our behalf. Saving the dolphin was not only  an apology for our mindless and unnecessary destruction of a harmless creature; it was also a gesture of gratitude for the trust and friendship dolphins continue to show us. 

Through centuries of so-called civilization, we have remained needless takers of lives. Our redemption lies in our capacity to be compassionate saviors.

The video link (thank you Peter Haberly):


 - Ariel Murphy 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Meaning?


I was a terrible child. My tendency to frequently ask "why" or "how" exasperated my father. I  was sure. He never showed displeasure though every time I asked. Instead, he merely answered my questions the best he could. Or at least  he offered whatever he could to keep me quiet.

The Terrible Child became an adult. Like the child, the adult drove some crazy. Two ex'es (and maybe another forthcoming) are still  down on their backs, screaming, tearing their hair off, and kicking their legs up in the air at an imaginary Ariel. 

They look like they might have gone insane.

Now please don't mistake my sharing Terrible Child with you as a warning. Never ever worry about being bugged. In addition to gagging Terrible Child, I've had a Restraining Order served against her.

But for now, here is Ariel with a question really heavy on her mind.

If you were a firm believer in randomness and  in the absence of order in the universe why would you even look for a meaning in life?

The "Identity of Meaning" Source: gallery444.com

Postscript: Don't you think that the picture above more than eloquently portrays the meaning of meaning?

Sigh!  I really thought the gag would work.

- Ariel Murphy

Monday, January 21, 2013

Losing is Everything (A Guest Blog by Mitchell Hegman)


Sometimes, I think we are so busy always trying to win that we forget the beauty of merely competing with grace and the grace in losing well.  We presently live in a world of Lance Armstrong doping to gain a few seconds on up-hill climbs and baseball players taking anabolic steroids in hopes of lifting a baseball over the fence
.
Everyone strives for the record books.  Nothing else will do.

Thankfully another side of sports exists.  One of my favorite stories is from a Special Olympics event in Washington State many years ago. 

During a running event, one of the contestants took a tumble. Two other runners, seeing the third runner in distress, stopped and ran back to help the fallen runner.  After a few assurances, all three runners locked arms and crossed the finish line in last place as one. 



--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Nature of Things ( a guest blog by Kolea)


As I gaze upon your lovely youthful features my darling

Your locks billowing about your shoulders with the morning breeze

It’s hard to remember the reality of such a special thing
I’d like to capture this moment and store it forever in some deep freeze.

But if I try to hold on to this blinding unreality I see
Repeatedly tormented by life’s storms will I forever be
Not using the sensibilities that fate has thrust upon me
Among the uncounted billions chained for life, a chance to be free.

Beneath the skin with the sheen of milky white sheet of silk
Lies muscle, bone, glands and blood coursing through uncounted veins
Cells being lost and created in myriad droves of every conceivable ilk
Not a single instant are you the same from that which it sustains.

In time the ravages of nature’s changes will certainly take its toll
When free radicals erase those cells causing young to become old
Limp and ragged we drag ourselves toward the grave eventually
Giving up all we own and releasing our hold very slowly, ever reluctantly.

There’s no fun in doing this we object, why wasn’t there a warning
White hairs did sneak in one by one, I didn’t see the sagging coming
The aches and pains were dealt with nicely with exercise and frequent hugs
Why, it’s as if they stopping the aging in its tracks, the wonders of modern drugs.

But time never quits, this cruel most relentless foe of all
Giving no quarter to king or pauper, slaying the mightiest and the small
Entire civilizations are its grist, they’re ground to dust eventually
So what’s one puny body like you, just because you protest so vehemently.

You prance your prance and dance your dance in eyes wide open slumber
Together with those others locked in step, growing without number
Those uncountable, innumerable, forgotten universes that existed in time without span
If you like for as long as that you can do this again and again.

Those cells of which we’re made we know are mostly vacant space
Those molecules and smaller atoms themselves are not the end of the race
Smaller and smaller they find, is each constituent part
Neutrinos and quarks reduced to vibrating strings, not even solid at heart.

Mere waves they say eventually, can all things visible be redefined
Solid matter is an antiquated idea, as knowledge becomes ever more refined
Mathematical equations may even define, who knows, everything that ever existed
Someday may be used to create anything, may not be overstated.

One day you may be captured, in a Hamiltonian or Schroedinger-like equation
They may someday reproduce you or me, maybe even our personality summation
Can anything possibly reproduce our wit and charm, no matter what the course
What a horrible thing to contemplate, coupling your keen intellect with the body of a
horse. Or possibly vice versa.

They say the Divine’s a mathematician, we can easily see why that’s so
There’s no knot beyond His ken and no solution beyond His know
There’s some things we ought to leave, in His domain to properly solve
Some things are just too complex for mere mortals, these things we can’t resolve.

There’s no limit to the how of things it seems, that humans can eventually solve
The mind of man has yet to show, the limit of its reaching
It’s possible that man can stretch it out, we’ve just started to evolve
But can we know Reality, the goal of all great teaching.

All our lives are dissipated in vain on frivolous pursuits to spend
Not aware not even in dreams of this gift from no precept
Jerked by passions left and right, attracted and distracted without end
Till Death appears without forewarning, his invitation a “must accept”.

How shall we greet, what manner meet, this Yama of the night
Patience is his long suit, he’s seen it all, all that put up the valiant fight
“It’s futile” he yawns, “don’t even try”, neither self nor others abuse
“No matter what you say or do, you know of course you’ll lose”, ho hum.

The Upanishads say, there’s only one that slipped his noose, this Nachiketa fellow
More clever than all that came before, he somehow figured it out
Of all the million billions that ever spun the wheel
He’s one of few to ever prove he wasn’t merely a lout.

Face to face with the King of Death, he eyed that mighty girth
This clever little fellow showed us all what we should aim for most dear
Don’t ask of Yama for wealth or pleasure, nor anything of common worth
Don’t waste your time or thought in anxious ways, always in fret or fear.

One thing only above the rest, will bestow some peace of mind
No matter who you’ll leave all behind, whether you’re strong or weak
Try starting with some effort to tread the path that Solomon did find
And keep in mind forever more, That alone is worth the seek.

Why seek the jewel you may rightly ask, seemingly with no form or substance
Why strive to grasp the ephemeral thought, which no eye can possibly see
The answer can only follow the question, and if the question be
He will guard and guide the honest pilgrim, who strives to really be free.

Photo by Frozenstardust
- Kolea


Friday, January 18, 2013

Celebrations and Lamentations


A friend slammed it right in my face, when I asked him to critique a draft of a piece I had written.  He  demanded: Why do you blog?

I  was stunned. I set up "Grains of Sand" last November merely out of curiosity. I had no conscious intention in mind.   As far as I was concerned, I was tired of being bugged to blog and so one rainy morning I relented. I jumped into the water flailing my neurons and synapses having no clue where I am headed to or at least none that I was conscious of.

Since that day in November, I had been blogging daily. I scoured the web for topics to write about. I listened to stories of friends. I looked around me and in me.

I found my answer.

On Facebook, Louise, a friend, conscientiously posts inspirational quotes. Cindy shares Jesus.  Ken fights for Hawaiian autonomy. Antonio waxes poetry and romance.  For Ferdie,  Facebook is all about humor and laughter.

People post what they eat; where they are; what they're doing; and what they've seen and heard.  Through  pictures, links, comments and "likes, "  they share themselves.

As I write this  I hear the cacophony of  the gazillion Coqui frogs in my yard. Those tiny illegal immigrants from Puerto Rico sing only in the dark. They protest the sun's going. Sometimes they rejoice about how the sun will return.

Like the frogs, I lament the darkness stealthily creeping in the world.  Nations are racing against each other in stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. There are tons of deadly  radio-active nuclear waste that are being dumped and  imperceptibly making their way to our doorsteps. In Canada, Harp seals are  horribly clubbed to death. In India, women are brutally raped only to be violated again by society's indifference.   Mere children are exploited toiling in the sweatshops of Asia if not  gunned down in the schools of America.  I can rant, rail and wail endlessly despite knowing that my efforts are mere matchsticks ramming high and thick walls of ignorance, complacency and apathy.

On the other hand,  I celebrate new discoveries in science; greater understanding of  how technology impacts our lives;  revealing insights into the dynamics of our changing society;  and even our ability to make fun of ourselves and find humor in the absurd, beauty in the madness, or something remarkable in the ordinary --  all indispensable pins of light  worth spreading to offer relief and hope or elicit a smile.

With my celebrations and lamentations, I join the Coqui frogs.  I stick my neck out and and share myself with you.

 I blog. 

Now the least you can do for me is share this.  Thanks! :)

A baby Harp seal (photo courtesy of the National Geographic)

- Ariel Murphy

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Gift


 It was Bob and Gina's 5th wedding anniversary. Bob  didn't  mind not having a  bow-tied box from Gina to unwrap. Afterall, she was unemployed and didn't have money to spare for a gift.  But that didn't keep her from preparing a special dinner complete with a lit candle on the table.

While they were eating, she asked Bob: "What were you grateful for today"?

 After a thoughtful  silence, Bob said: "Thank you for that gift. Best I've ever had in a while from anybody."

A slight breeze came in through the window. But the flame on the lone candle didn't even flicker.

From GoogleImages
  - Ariel Murphy

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

According to My Made-in-China Crystal Ball


Sometimes a crystal ball is not needed to have a glimpse of the future.

A study made by an Australian university could mean  a world dominated either by aggressors or by pacifists.

Little Emperors: Behavioral Impact of China's One-Child Policy in 1979,  authored by Lisa Cameron and Xin Men, compared children born before the policy was instituted and those after.

According to the study, children born after the policy was issued and strictly enforced (there were allegedly cases of forced sterilization) were found to be less trusting, less cooperative, less risk-taking and less conscientious  and more pessimistic compared to those born prior to China's initiative to curb its run-away population growth.

The findings are not surprising. Parents tend to pamper and over protect their lone progeny, who are more likely to  turn into emotionally stunted and socially hampered adults than children with siblings -- although, according to Jeffrey Kluger, author of The Sibling Effect, American singletons are not the same as those in China because of the culture mix in the US.

 Kluger wrote that  sibling-less American kids "grow up in a culture with a whole mix of family types, who learn that whatever extra pampering they get from their parents is not what all kids get, and that they’re no more entitled to privilege than anyone else."

Chinese teachers and employers interviewed by Fortune Magazine in 2004 complained that children of the One-Child Policy are not resilient.  The kids fail to learn how to "eat bitterness" or adjust to disappointment and frustration.

An article released in The Atlantic, said that Chinese children with no siblings "appeared neurotic" -- perhaps the reason why some employers in China reportedly refuse to hire One-Child policy children and indicate so in announcements of job openings.

With people numbering 1.3 billion, China tops the list of the 10 most populated countries on earth for 2012 (internetworldstats.com).  India lands solidly in second with 1.2 billion people.

Among China's claim to fame -- aside from the invention of paper, the compass, printing, and gunpowder -- is its cheap labor.  In between playing ping-pong and practicing dazzling acrobatic moves, the Chinese manufactures or assembles practically all that we see these days on the shelves of Wal-Mart.

China lent "people power"  -- a term coined when Filipinos unseated Ferdinand Marcos in the 1980s -- an entirely new meaning which  propelled China into the economic power it is now.  China's  human capital is responsible for making practically everything we use daily -- from  coffee cups in the mornings to  toothbrushes in the evenings.

Though inventive, the Chinese may have unwittingly been short-sighted in instituting and strictly enforcing its one-child policy. Projections indicate that by 2050 China's population would remain pegged at its 2012 level while India's will rise to 1.7 billion.

China's population, while no longer increasing, will be graying. Lesser births mean a decreasing number of young people and more older ones, as a percentage of the population.

Given the projected change in demographics,  the implication is clear.  A decrease in the labor force could mean a corresponding decline in national output thereby denting the continuity of China's position as an economic power. We might eventually find ourselves using coffee cups and toothbrushes made in India.

Now here's the scary part. Given the study done by Cameron and Men, China's economic and political fate could likely end up in the hands  of offshoots of The One-Child Policy, who are used to instant gratification and think that the universe revolves entirely around them.

Doddering grandpas and grandmas might find themselves compelled to man assembly lines and factories up to when they could no longer stand on their feet. There could be even lesser tolerance for dissent. Whatever limited rights and liberties currently exist could be severely cut. Another concern would be the ability of the political leadership to  work with that of other countries and be rational in their view of world issues.

But wait. There just might be hope. India's ascendance to the position of most populated country on earth could also mean an increase in  influence world-wide. Most everything Indian could be popular, including spirit-centered philosophies.

China may have  possibly more  "unstable"  people by 2050 but  the neurotic might turn out congenial enough to greet each morning with calming  chants of the OM-Shanti mantra  and sufficiently "enlightened"  to practice tantra at night. Not even Freud can beat that.

There is hope for the world after all!

Photo depicts the flags of China and India. Courtesy of The China Times
  - Ariel Murphy

Monday, January 14, 2013

May "The Force" Be with Us!


I was at my wit's end yesterday fiddling with confounding wires and sockets trying to make my phone work. It conked out after a brief power outage.  But just as I was about to tear my hair and bang my head against the wall in frustration, something in the news made me chuckle.

Apparently, some 34,000 people signed a petition to the White House for the construction of a "Death Star" in outer space  to defend earth from planets hurtling towards the us and to provide work for the unemployed.  The project was estimated to cost some (make sure you're seated) $850,000,000,000, 000. 000!  Or $850 quadrillion! The petition set project completion for 2016, three years from now.

Compelled by President Obama's policy of replying to any petition with more than 25,000 signatories, the White House did indeed respond. Here are excerpts from a statement issued by White House official Paul Shawcross:

* The Administration does not support blowing up planets.

* Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that's helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations. The Space Station has six astronauts -- American, Russian, and Canadian -- living in it right now, conducting research, learning how to live and work in space over long periods of time, routinely welcoming visiting spacecraft and repairing onboard garbage mashers, etc. 

* If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us! Remember, the Death Star's power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force.

My take:

There are far more dangerous and immediate concerns that we need to work on right where we are than anticipating the prospect of a star/comet/planet headed our way. I give credit though to the petitioners' creativity. Now if only we can harness that same wild imagination to address widespread aggression and violence both towards fellow humans as well as our environment, we can cut down on the economic and social  cost of living on planet earth. There is no need for an $850 quadrillion (!!!)  "Death Star" to supposedly spur job creation and defend earth from possible alien invaders and oncoming planets.

Unless we learn to live harmoniously and are firmly grounded on the values of Honor and Respect, we will only pollute  the universe with our "dirt."

Rather than a Death Star, we need real-life  Jedis and clones of Yoda, Obi Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker.

They will wield Sabers of Light to fight Darkness  not far out there but where they are badly and urgently needed -- right here and now.

May The Force be with you!

Star Wars' Obi Wan Kenobi. Photo from thegreenhead.com
 - Ariel Murphy


Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Tummy Test


I've often wondered why my friend's cat likes to sleep on top of my belly.  Not that I mind. But imagine the feel of a 20-pound cat suddenly descending on that sensitive part while you sleep.  Why does it head straight for the stomach and not the legs or arms?

I searched the web looking for a rational study of some kind. Instead I found a variety of "practical"  answers from cat lovers.

The softness and warmth of the stomach make a cat feel safe. I can imagine that.

Sleeping on a human's stomach is a sign of feline affection. That's an idea.

The cat detects if there is a stomach problem and sleeps on the tummy to "heal" it. Now that's really interesting.

But I have a nagging feeling. Could it be  that a cat sleeping on my belly is an indication that my "abs" needs workouts?

Just wondering.


  - Ariel Murphy
 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Beam Me Up: Another Chance?


In our preoccupation with more "mundane" issues like gun-related violence in schools (another incident happened Thursday, January 10 at Taft Union High School, California), we may have missed seemingly innocuous news released in the media.

Astronomers announced in the January 6-10, 2013 meeting of the American Astronomical Society the discovery of "earth-like" planets. Significantly, one of them has all three qualities scientists are looking for in a twin earth. The planet has the right temperature for water to exist,  is only 1.5 times the size of earth, and is orbiting around a star that is much like our sun.

Understandably, the scientists gave no details. It will surely take some time  and money to learn more about the latest finds. Still, the news titillates the imagination. It throws lifelines and offers salvation for what many consider to be our "dying planet."

I wonder. Are the inhabitants, if any, of "twin earth" plagued by the same issues and challenges that we face?

Do they look like Darth Vader with firearms for appendages? 

Do they stick out their tongues  at each other and wag them briskly as a way of saying "hello"?

Do they make kidney pies of fellow creatures?

Will they welcome us with wide smiles on their faces and gift us with flowers and doobies?

But  should "twin earth" be uninhabited,  would we humans be able to begin anew in another planet?

Would we then be mindful of  the mistakes we still don't seem to have learned from, even after centuries of so-called civilization during which we also decimated tribes and nations, not to mention their cultures; created innovative torture techniques for both civilians and prisoners of war; depleted forests and drove wildlife into extinction; and over-fished and poisoned rivers and seas?

Would kneeling on the ground and kissing each other's feet be then our new and only acceptable way of saying "hello"?

Beam me up Scotty!

Photo courtesy of NASA
 - Ariel Murphy