Thom’s Thursday Thoughts on The Final Frontier

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To infinity and Hell’s Kitchen.

Do you ever get overwhelmed – in a moment of mundane stillness – by a wave of strangeness? Like you’re losing your footing? 

A few nights ago I couldn’t sleep. Tom is blessed with one of those (male) brains that go blank at all the right times. If the room is dark and his head is on a pillow, he’ll fall asleep within five minutes. Thoughts and problems – they can wait until tomorrow.

But I don’t work like that. Unfortunately for Tom, nighttime is when I do my best and loudest thinking. I want to talk about my feelings. I want to ask Tom about his feelings (“I feel tired. I want to sleep.”) I want to talk about us, about the future and our place in it. I want to bring up all my favorite “what-ifs” (“Your stupid, irrelevant hypotheticals, you mean?”) and see what Tom’s thoughts are, even if it’s not a Thursday.

But a few nights ago, as I lay down and turned to Tom to begin that evening’s one-sided conversation, I glimpsed through the window a sliver of night sky against brick wall and felt suddenly unsettled. Small and inconsequential.

We were running out of time, I felt. There were still so many places to see and live, so many things to do, but the world seemed to be tearing itself apart over terrorism, over Donald Trump’s hair, pollution and global warming. I thought about an all-out nuclear war. What would happen?

“It would suck,” said Tom.

Where would mankind go?  How likely was life on Mars?

“Not likely,” said Tom, “But if we blow up Earth, that’s the only place left. The next planet would take too long to get to.”

I hoped mankind knew better. I wanted more time, to see where people a thousand, ten thousand years from now would be.

“I don’t want to live through all that,” said Tom, “I kind of want to just jump ahead, even though I think humans will have killed ourselves off by then. Or become integrated with robots.”

I felt greedy. There was not just Earth but worlds – no, galaxies – beyond. How limited we were in our technological advances! How pitiful our probes that took nearly a decade to reach Pluto! In ten thousand years, if humans were still around, how fast and far would we be able to go? Would we zoom from galaxy to galaxy like in the movies? What would be waiting for us?

There had to be so much! Of the trillions of stars and galaxies it was stupid to think that Earth was the only one with intelligent life. What if there were elements in space that didn’t exist on Earth? What if aliens – even if we did encounter them – were beyond the scope of our capability to comprehend them? What if all our theories – the Big Bang, Black Holes, all of it – what if they were complete and utter rot but we recited them, believed in them, because – like Earth’s creation simplified in the Bible – we had to come up with stories to describe and quantify them, to make impossible things seem possible to our limited human brains?

That was the hardest thing to wrap my brain around. I sighed and took a deep wistful breath.

Tom turned to look at me in the dark.

“Are you high?”

I laughed. I wasn’t, but I felt the pillow on my cheek. My mind steadied, collected itself back into our little bedroom in Hell’s Kitchen. The sliver of sky was just that, and the brick wall a brick wall.  As quickly as it came, the strange feeling left.

Anyway, Happy Thursday. And a few more of Tom’s thoughts on Space:

  • On a good writer to help you wrap your mind around things that are hard to wrap around: “Carl Sagan,” Tom says, “He’s good at explaining these complicated things in an understandable way.”
  •  On a good movie that explores humans merging with robots: Chappie by Neill Blomkamp. (You’ll probably like this if you liked District 9).
  • On Space Travel: “I would definitely do it. But I’m not gonna pay $200K for 30 minutes in space. But it’ll get cheaper. Like Plasma TVs. They were like $10k when they first came out and now they’re $100.”
  • And lastly, if you don’t want to leave the house but love outer space and have a ton of time and LEGOs, some inspiration via JK Brickworks. Tom is a fan:
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