Wednesday, December 14, 2011
We're Alone. No We're Not. Oh, What the Hell...
My friend David D, an app mogul, computer wunderkind, NASA Ambassador and tireless proponent of science and space exploration, has a theory. We are mechanical beings, he thinks, miraculously though not divinely sentient, and he proposes that future research will prove we are indeed alone in the universe. He does not believe in reincarnation, or that there is more to existence than what we have during our short tenure on earth. His belief in a supreme being is an attenuated one and here we share a certain commonality, though I am at best uncertain of what I think most of the time. If I have a god, it is one of my non-understanding. More often than not, I think there might indeed be something up there, but I’m not sure he/she/it gives much of a damn for what happens here, or, for that matter, elsewhere.
In the past few years, I’ve tended to some of the beliefs propounded by Cathars, the 12th century heretics of the Languedoc region in France who saw the material world as largely nasty. Cathars were hunted down mercilessly by the church for promoting the notion that matter was evil, and that Man (Humanity) was an alien sojourner in an essentially malevolent world. Therefore, the main aim of Man was to free his spirit, which was in its nature good, and restore it with God. The Cathars allowed women to be perfecti, i.e., priests (an idea I completely endorse). They did not believe in a Last Judgement, accepted reincarnation, and thought souls could take many lifetimes to reach perfection before their final release.
My stand on reincarnation is one based on the assumption that nature recycles—flesh, bones, bark and grass, almost everything but plastic shopping bags from Safeway, so why not souls, if indeed souls exist…
The discussion came up as David and I compared notes on health issues during a recent telephone conversation. David has suffered far worse ills than mine, and done so with amazingly good grace and courage. I have known him almost thirty-five years and seen his life and those of his loved ones go through some truly tough trials and come out victorious, often with a smile—admittedly a wry one—and a degree of acceptance I find hard to emulate. He’s a man worth listening to.
But if he’s right about us being one-of-a-kind in the universe, what a waste! I prefer to believe the place is teeming with life, and I wrote a novel about this theory many years ago. That being said, I’ll add that in spite of all the tales of aliens kidnapping humans, I’m pretty we’ve not been contacted yet, or even discovered. Our tiny galaxy and minutely small solar system is the equivalent of the Marshall Islands—lost in a deep and wide sea and far from everything that might breed life. And then, of course, having seen the terrible mess we’ve made of things in the last two hundred years, who would want to come and visit? If I’m going on vacation, I have no desire to spend my time and money in the slums and sewers of some ill-begotten, unkind and unfriendly society.
So go or no god, reincarnation or one-shot deal, I’m coming to the conclusion that we’d better make the best of our vertical years. There are only a few of them, and, as I’m noticing more and more, they go by fast. I think someone else said it first but what the hell. Live long and prosper.