I just read an article that completely blew my mind. It was pure speculation, yes, but it certainly made me think. Entitled “Is Physical Law an Alien Intelligence?” it discussed how advanced technology, as posited by Arthur C. Clarke, would seem like magic to a less advanced civilization.
It made me think of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain. Of course a 19th century man, if sent back to the time of King Arthur, would seem magical to many. Any time you have advanced knowledge, you’ll be a source of fascination to those who do not.
But the article above takes it even further. What if the technology is so advanced that we can’t see it or conceive of it at all? What if there’s actually intelligent life out there that’s so developed that it manipulates the universe in ways we’ve yet to explain, but have been actively confused by?
As I mulled over this article it made me wonder how beings like that would perceive us. Maybe we’re so primitive that they don’t see us either. I thought about that as I watered my tomato plants.
Do tomato plants know when they’re being watered? Do they know what the source of this water is? Can they distinguish water from my hose from water that comes from the sky? Do they care?
The fact is, I don’t understand tomato plants. I don’t know what makes them tick. I don’t comprehend a living thing that can’t focus outward, or for that matter, focus at all.
But as speculative as that article is, it made me think about how arrogant we humans are, believing that we’re at the top of some pyramid, and that all life must be somehow inferior to our own. It’s just as likely that that’s not the case.
It’s rather unsettling, though, thinking that in the cosmic scheme of things, I could very well be your basic tomato plant. It sure makes me think twice about the tomatoes in my salad.
I have a friend who will not go to restaurants that specialize in food from other cultures. He’s perfectly content with his hamburgers and his French fries and his macaroni and cheese. He likes his vegetables plain and unseasoned, with no fancy sauces, and his salads should only contain lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber. He can’t imagine how a vegetarian entrée could be as satisfying as steak and potatoes, and he certainly won’t try something that he couldn’t figure out how to prepare himself.
I weep for him.
Eating like that would be akin to living in a library and only reading The Great Gatsby. Great book, and all, but oh, what you are missing! What adventures, what knowledge, what delights are set before you! How can you ignore them?
I also have friends who have never bothered to get a passport. What would be the point? They have no curiosity whatsoever about the wider world. And it’s not a financial issue. They can afford to travel. They just choose not to. It’s maddening.
These friends appear content. And I do envy the fact that they seem to be convinced that they’ve found everything they could ever need or want out of life. That confidence is not mine.
But I think I’d find their lives extremely boring. I enjoy having new experiences. No, I don’t love every single thing I try. (One word: Wasabi.) But I never regret trying.
I like to go places where I’ve never been. I love learning about different points of view. I adore new sights, sounds, tastes.
Life is a fully stocked buffet laid out before you. What a gift! Revel in the abundance! Don’t just stop and smell the roses. Check out the corpse flowers, too, if you get a chance, just to see what their stinky smell is like.
Be adventurous. Eat life! Because this delicious buffet is only opened to you for a finite amount of time. And there’s nothing worse than wasting food.
I was feeling a little nostalgic the other day, and decided to listen to Longer, by Dan Fogelberg. I love that song, and it’s been ages since I’ve heard it. I was particularly struck by one portion. “Through the years, as the fire starts to mellow, burning lines in the book of our lives, though the binding cracks and the pages start to yellow…”
What imagery. We all are writing books of our lives. No two books are the same.
Mine would say things like, “She went from a mansion to a tent in less than 3 weeks.” “After falling in love for the first time in Holland, she then moved to Mexico and had adventures while her heart broke into a million pieces.” “At the age of 49, she started life over by moving across the country to Seattle, a city where she knew no one.” “She published a book.” “She was married for the first time at age 53, and it was right and good that she waited, because she found the perfect person for her.”
No one in this world ever has, or ever will have, those same sentences written in the book of her life. Our books are precious, and we have a responsibility to make them as amazing as we possibly can.
In the process of writing our lives, we can follow our hearts, take chances, do our best to make the world a better place, or we can be cruel, heartless bullies. These are choices we can make. We can be forces for good or evil. We can help others or ruin them. There are so many plot twists that are possible.
And yes, if we’re lucky, we can live long enough to see our pages start to yellow. Hopefully we will be remembered after we are gone. But the fact is, our books are written mainly for us, and for the people that we love. And while centuries from now, most of our books may have crumbled to dust, the generations that follow will have started creating their own chapters, and perhaps they’ll have been influenced by the echoes of books past.
I hope you are writing the best book ever, dear reader.
It’s rather interesting, when you think about it, how much time we waste worrying about how much time we’re wasting. I mean, what a waste! That time would be much better spent being wasted in some other way.
Time marches on. Life is the ultimate zero sum equation. You can expend all the energy you want in trying to be efficient, trying not to waste time, working, planning, plotting, organizing, or watching cat videos on Youtube, but in the end, time is going to pass regardless. It can’t be stopped. We’re all going to get older and eventually die.
Am I suggesting that we should just give up and give in to those cat videos? On the contrary, I think the way we spend our time is important. If we focus on giving joy to others, and trying to make the world a better place, and doing the things that we love the most, then it will have been time well spent.
But stop beating yourself up over it all. Just be in the moment. Just live.
Because you can’t control time. You can’t “spend it” or “save it”. You can only experience it. So make it the best experience that you possibly can, and stop stressing out over it all.
It always struck me as kind of amusing that many of us say goodbye to the old year and ring in the new by singing a song that we find incomprehensible. I mean, if you took a poll of 100 people, and asked them what Auld Lang Syne means, the most common answer would be, “Beats me.” And yet we sing it, with feeling.
The best translation I’ve found for Auld Lang Syne is “Days Gone By.” And that’s all I need to know, really. It’s a song about nostalgia.
Should we forget the days and people of old? No. We should appreciate them. We should be grateful for our past, because it has made us who we are today. We are the sum total of our experiences, whether they’re good, bad, or ugly.
Hard or easy, cruel or kind, we are here! We’re here, and we can look forward to the future. We build upon the foundations and lessons of days gone by and that allows us to reach higher heights in the days to come.
Life! What a gift! All of it. Even the not-so-good stuff. It got us here. We may have not had control of all of it. It might have been messy sometimes. But how we cope, how we plan, how we dream… that’s entirely up to us.
So let’s take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.
This is probably rather short notice, but have you thought about how you will be entering 2019? Think of it as a crowded room. How you enter it will make a difference as to how the year-long party will go for you.
Will you enter with energy and enthusiasm, or sneak in the back way and hope no one notices you? Both are legitimate ways to get from this year to next, but they’ll probably yield wildly different results. I suppose it depends on what you want to get out of the months to come.
Personally, I’ve never seen the point of getting roaring drunk and entering the year with a head splitting hangover. To me, that seems like starting yourself off thirty yards deep in your own endzone. But hey, we all make choices.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that you attend a great big New Year’s Party if you don’t want to. I never have. I’m a lot more low key than that. I’d rather not walk into 2019 feeling awkward and uncomfortable. That’s not a precedent I want to set.
No, I’m talking about the party of life in general. Do you have a plan? Do you have goals and intentions? (Forget about resolutions. How many people do you know who have stuck to those?) No, I’m talking about attitude. I’m talking about expectations. I’m talking about seizing the year!
I plan to enter this year with gratitude, joy, and anticipation. I want to have a wide open heart so that all my hopes and dreams can flow freely. I want this year to be one of hope and happiness.
So, Carpe Annum, dear reader! I hope you enter the year with a clear vision. I hope that you take some (measured) risks and have some adventures, and that this year yields everything you wish it will.
His Facebook page is full of lighthearted posts. Funny things he felt like passing along. Videos of cats. Smiling selfies. Humorous observations. The next post is bound to pop up any minute.
I barely knew him. He was a friend of a friend. We had pleasant exchanges in the comment section. I knew I’d like him. We’d yet to meet face to face. Vague plans had been made, and had yet to be carried out.
And now he’s dead, in his 50’s. Natural causes, they say. But there’s nothing natural about dying in one’s 50’s.
It’s all so fleeting. So unexpected. One day you’re taking a selfie, and the next you’re gone.
Life is precious. Don’t waste time. Savor every moment.
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