A couple years ago, at my old site, I spent the better part of a month giving a kind of overview of why it is I’m interested in so many things, how that progressed through my life, and how that study has led me to the conclusion that all things are connected in some way. And it all began, as I write here, with a photo of Saturn.
Among the many things I’ve followed in my life, the ups and downs and ins and outs of the American space program, including our robotic studies of the solar system, has been one I’ve followed closely. We live at a time that can best be described as a golden age of discovery about our solar system. We have orbiters around Mercury, Mars, and Saturn. We have one headed for Jupiter that’s a few years away, while one on its way to Pluto will be arriving sometime next year. A European Space Agency craft is orbiting a small comet, about to send a lander to the surface. The spacecraft that took the photo above, back in 1980, has sent one of its last signals home, letting us know that it has now, finally, reached interstellar space.
What does my Yahoo! News Feed offer? Blurb after blurb from UFO nuts about everything from iguanas on Mars to pyramids on a comet to UFOs buzzing the International Space Station. All this beauty and wonder, from the surface of Mars to the space just outside our atmosphere, and there are people who are breathlessly searching for all sorts of things – and finding them! – all the while ignoring the real wonder, beauty, and mystery that we really are seeing and learning.
I know it might not seem connected at all, but it’s much like the Ebola-panic that’s sweeping the country. We have one – 1, uno, einz – confirmed death from Ebola in the United States, while hundreds die every day in Sierra Leone Liberia. We will have more people contract bubonic plague in the United States than will contract Ebola this year. Did you know that? In fact, more people will die today from gun violence than will die from Ebola all year here in the United States.
On September 11, 2001, over 3,000 Americans and others died in a completely preventable – indeed predicted, with counter-measures offered and rejected – terrorist attacks on the United States. One person dies from Ebola in the United States and it’s Pres. Obama’s fault? Is anyone asking this question serious? High? Forgetful? We already know Pres. Bush heard a National Security Threat Assessment about al Quaeda attacking the United States, including using planes as missiles, and carried on with his vacation. Pres. Obama has absolutely nothing to do with a person entering the United States with a tropical disease and it’s all his fault. More than that, people all over the country think every sniffle, cough, or bloody scab is a sign of the disease, even though there are no more active cases in the United States that aren’t contained, and those who contracted the virus have managed to fight it off.
No one takes the time to breathe anymore. We either lose out stuff because of some shadow on a rock on another planet, or because a disease that is admittedly horrible yet easily contained and controlled has come to the United States. We can’t take a moment to breathe as we watch videos of a comet – something human beings have never seen up close before – or photographs from another planet, or the radar mapping of a moon that has seas of methane that seem to have tidal movements, with pieces of land covered, then uncovered. No, we have to listen to kooks talk about petroglyphs on Mars and UFOs following the International Space Station.
No one takes the time to breathe and find out that even though Ebola has come to the US – as if we could ever effectively keep it away – it is no big deal, and in fact when politicians aren’t interfering public health officials are doing an admirable job containing it. We can’t breathe because we have had years and years warning us that the next thing coming down the pike is the most horrible thing in the world. It could be Mexicans and Guatemalans entering the United States illegally; it could be a new, and fierce, terrorist group half a world away; it could be a tropical disease that is certainly horrible; it could be any number of things, but we as a people are poised to panic. The truth is, things are wonderful. Look around your yards at the leaves. Breathe that fresh autumn air. Take a moment to look at a photograph of a planet, or moon, or comet, or distant object that no human being has ever seen before. We live in an age that should fill us with awe and wonder. Instead, we live in an age when quite literally everything, from people of the same gender getting married to an illness is cause for panic and a sure sign of the end of days.
We as a people need to breathe.
OK. Rant over.