Posts Tagged ‘universe’

America’s Getting a History Lesson

Saturday, July 18th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

A statue of Christopher Columbus is toppled in Baltimore.

A statue of Christopher Columbus is toppled in Baltimore.

      Christopher Columbus was sent to the bottom of the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. Stonewall Jackson has been removed from his pedestal in Richmond, Va. The Washington Redskins are considering changing their nickname. Can the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves be far behind? The State of Mississippi is removing the Confederate flag symbol from its state flag. Several members of Congress have asked the Army to rename any buildings and remove symbols at West Point that honor Robert E. Lee and any other Confederate officers.

       America is getting a history lesson, many generations too late, and we owe it all to … Donald Trump.

       Sometimes life is weird. There’s a school of thought which holds that humans learn the important lessons in life only by going through difficult, challenging, perhaps painful situations. Some call them “opportunities.” The universe — your own personal one, or the one we all share — is thought to like harmony. Everyone singing in tune, so to speak. But apparently it takes going through disharmony to get there. Otherwise, we don’t pay attention and just go on thinking everything’s fine. How much disharmony is necessary before we learn the lesson seems to depend on how well we pay attention in class. That is, do we notice the disharmony, understand what it really is, know what or who caused it and do we look for a solution — a real, lasting solution, not a paper-over job that makes us feel good for awhile?

        History suggests we favor temporary, feel-good “solutions.” What follows is an extremely condensed lesson:

        European settlers “claimed” (and named) America more than 500 years ago, killing and raping natives who already lived here. Disharmony. Over time, however, generations of European-Americans made amends for this grand theft, first by having a special dinner with native Americans and later calling it Thanksgiving, designating unwanted parcels of land for the tribes to call their own reservations, killing thousands more in Western movies that portrayed them as savage redskins (Oops! Sorry, Washington.), ignoring tribal laws and customs that were inconvenient, letting tribes open gambling casinos and giving Columbus, the guy who started it all and gave the natives the name “Indians,” his own holiday. We’re square now, right, Chief?

         While this lesson was slowly unfolding, dark-skinned natives of African nations were being kidnaped and brought to America to serve as slave labor for plantation owners in the South. These unwilling immigrants were bought and sold as property for generations, without rights and mostly without education. They were the backbone of the American economy. Still, many Americans, mostly in the North, were not OK with slavery. Eventually, after much disharmony, a Civil War broke out over it, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves, and the North won the most brutal war this nation has ever fought. A divided nation was rejoined and a semblance of harmony was restored. 

          Now free, Blacks nonetheless continued to live as second-class citizens throughout the segregated South for about 100 years. The 1960s brought another revolution. Marches, demonstrations, violence, death. But President Lyndon Johnson muscled the Civil Rights Act through a contentious Congress. Voila! No more segregation. Schools were integrated. Everyone was “equal.” Wow, it was about time, Americans agreed. We’re good now, right, Bro? Hey, you want to play football at our college? 

         At the same time, however, many Southerners also said let’s not forget those courageous generals who led the Confederacy’s fight to maintain slavery, even in a new nation if need be. Let’s erect statues praising them everywhere we can think of. And don’t you just love that Confederate flag? Live and die for Dixie. Uhh, also, we don’t really need to rush with this “all men are equal stuff,” do we? 

       So everything was cool, no more separate water fountains or schools. No more use of the “N” word, at least not publicly. No more profiling of people of color by police, well at least not officially. America was now, finally, a color-blind nation. It had to be. After all, it was the law. Harmony was mandated.

       Then along came Trump, a man who never read a history book, indeed could barely read at all. The Republican Party, which had become the favorite hiding place for all those white Americans who would still be slaveholders if it was allowed and who still had no problem with separate water fountains and who apparently never learned what the Civil War was about, made Trump its presidential candidate. Americans, in their wisdom, and with the considerable help of Russia and an antiquated electoral system, elected Trump.

        It turned out a lot of Americans didn’t like the Democratic candidate because she was a woman and she was smart and tough and knew more about the job of president than Trump and all the would-be Republican candidates put together. Vote for Trump, they said. He’ll shake things up in Washington.

      And they were right.

       A man who operates solely out of self-interest, Trump’s primary “governing” tools are chaos and vindictiveness, which he wields as weapons. In his effort to “Make America Great Again” (as in, before the Civil Rights Act), he has destroyed international alliances, stoked bigotry against all non-whites, encouraged violence — including by police — against peaceful protest and made it safe in the minds of his racist followers to come out of the woodwork to spew their hatred. There is a crisis of conscience in America every day. The evidence is in the news media, which he has labeled “the enemy of the people.”

         Evangelical Christians claim Trump was sent by some God to save them, but not necessarily the rest of us. The Rapture notwithstanding, I’m working on that need for harmony thesis. I’m thinking Trump may be the inevitable result of a universe frustrated with our inability to learn the lesson.

         Major change sometimes requires major pain. Having dozens of videos of police brutality against people of color splashed across social media helps. So does having an inept “leader” who flouts the law, promotes racism and violence, and lies on a daily basis. He is disharmony personified. We don’t need history books for this; we’re living it.

         So … wait a minute! Did you see what they did? Again? This doesn’t seem right! Down with Columbus! Down with Robert E. Lee! The Chicks are no longer from Dixie and FedEx insists that the football team that plays in the stadium which bears the company’s name must change its mascot. When big business gets a conscience, it may be a sign that America is finally learning the lesson. It’s simple: We are supposed to love and help one another. All one-anothers. Harmony.

         The universe may be speaking to us, in a sense, through Donald Trump. I pray we hear it this time.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer in residence at zestoforange.com.

 

TAD? TFS? Whatever … I’ve Got It

Friday, August 3rd, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Trump on Facebook jpgDonald Trump is messing with my journalistic instincts. How do I know? Well, I never got past the headline of the Facebook post that informed me psychologists were diagnosing something new among their patients, informally called TAD — Trump Anxiety Disorder.

I never bothered to read the article. Of course they are, I said to myself. What took them so long? The whole damn country is suffering from it. We’re one, big, herky-jerky mass of resentment and anxiety just waiting for the next tweet to make us great again. Or have us at each other’s throats.

I recognize the symptoms in myself every morning when I wake up and remember that the sorry excuse for a human being called Trump still lives in the White House and millions of Americans are apparently OK with that. I’ve also been told that acceptance is the key to serenity and that I don’t have to like the situation to retain my sanity, just accept that it is. So I’ve now given up trying to figure out or reason with the Trumpsters. The universe and history will deal with them.

But as someone who has been trained and conditioned over time to write about such things as a colossal upheaval of the moral underpinnings of the supposed defender of democracy, equality and justice on the planet (i.e. the United States), I also feel obliged to try to write despite the angst. To report, if you will, on the latest outrage. But really …

There’s no keeping up. Pick a topic. Is it Korea, Russia, the wall, trade wars, utter incompetence, lies, NATO, Iran, hush money for sex with porn stars, China, lies, kneeling football players, the queen, racism, ignorance, attacks on reporters, lies, Hillary, tax cuts for the rich, boorishness, caging immigrant kids, nepotism, the budget deficit, witch hunts, lies …?

It’s all different, yet all the same. Follow the bouncing ball. Three-card Monte. What did he just say? So, while I may have Trump Anxiety Disorder, I think I’m also suffering from what the mental health professionals call a co-occurring condition — Trump Fatigue Symptom.

It’s downright tiring writing the same thing over and over again: Dotard did/said something dumb or cruel, or both. Then he lied about it. Republicans didn’t care (they’ve committed suicide) and his loyalists cheered. End of story.

The end of story I’m hoping for, of course, is one written by Special Counsel Robert Mueller: Trump led out in handcuffs, along with his family and cronies. But I’m also looking for a good read in a chapter to be written in November — the midterm elections. If there’s not a big Blue Wave vote for Congress, TAD will become epidemic I fear.

Meanwhile, someone who cares about me and is curious about the true meaning of life (it’s not politics or baseball, I’m told), has steered me to some people who seem to have a pretty good handle on it. Eckhart Tolle. Mooji. Rupert Spira. Deepak Chopra.Tom Campbell. Thanks to YouTube, they are helping me to change my outlook, maybe even lower my anxiety level.

The key is simply to be, these enlightened men say. I am not my thoughts. I am not even my body. Consciousness (not the Dotard) is in charge. All I have is now. Be present. (Have lunch with my sons.) Meet everything in the moment. Be aware of being aware. (Do all-you-can-eat sushi every Sunday.) Lower the entropy (disorder) in a system (consciousness) and increase the cooperation, order, caring, even love. There are no coincidences.

This is all a virtual reality, says Campbell, a physicist. In that case, I want to be the player in charge of the Dotard’s avatar. I think I could bring plenty of energy to that experience, appreciate every moment and lower the entropy of the entire planet.

It’s working slowly.

Also, please vote Democrat.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Hellooooooooooooooooooo, Out There!

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

The Arecibo Message ... sent in 1974

The Arecibo Message … sent in 1974

I pause in my search for intelligent life in the White House to ruminate on another project which may well promise quicker results — the search for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

The search is known as METI: Messaging to Extraterrestrial Intelligence. This is not to be confused with SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), which deals with searching for messages from aliens. To/from. Therein lies the difference as well as a major scientific/philosophical dispute.

The SETI project was popularized in the novel, “Contact,” by astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist Carl Sagan, who was central, along with astronomer, astrophysicist Frank Drake, in creating the program by which huge radio telescopes have listened for decades — still do — for signals from far-distant civilizations.

The book was later made into a movie starring Jodie Foster. You may remember it. It vaguely resembles the book, which I only recently finished reading as part of my return-to-reading movement that was sparked by a “sudden” appreciation of the science of synchronicity. In brief, I started noticing that coincidences led to more coincidences — books led to other books, ideas to other ideas, etc. — and that I ignored the connection between events/people/things at my own loss.

There was a reason that article by Steven Johnson about METI appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine two weeks ago. It was to catch me up on where the search for evidence of life elsewhere in the universe had gone since Sagan’s book was published in 1985. What purpose it may have served for you, I haven’t a clue, but for me it meant there was probably some issue to write about that could lead to more fruitful thought than that monotonous White House disaster.

The fact that I live in Pine Bush, a hamlet in upstate New York known as the UFO capital of the Northeast, just clinched the deal. Of course, in Pine Bush there are quite a few people who believe that extraterrestrials have already been here more than once. Checking us out. Maybe so, but since I have yet to experience a UFO, I’m interested in the debate going on over SETI vs. METI.

It boils down to: It’s all well and good to listen for messages from outer space. If we receive one, it means there is other life out there. We can then decide how, or whether, to respond. The hesitation has to do with not knowing if the other life is friendly or not. If we send out a big hello to the universe, the nay-sayers argue, any civilization that receives it will be far more advanced than ours and could well look upon us as Columbus did on the Native Americans. As Stephen Hawking, the most prominent METI nay-sayer, pointed out, that experience “did not go well” for the Native Americans. Do not advertise our presence, he says, and Elon Musk and many other scientists agree.

But many others disagree, arguing that another civilization, advanced enough to receive our message, would likely also be advanced enough to  understand the value of being peaceful.

So, what to do?

METI’s web page lists several objectives, including:

  • “Promote international cooperation and collaboration in METI, SETI, and astrobiology.
  • “Understand and communicate the societal implications and relevance of searching for life beyond Earth, even before detection of extraterrestrial life.
  • “Research and communicate to the public the many factors that influence the origins, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe …”

I’d say the non-profit agency has noble, worthwhile goals. It’s the kind of project that could serve to remind all of us Earthlings of our relative insignificance in the universe and serve as a unifying, educational mission for our querulous planet. Of course, with even scientists being in disagreement about whether to send or just keep listening, I’m skeptical about political leaders being able to reach agreement. In fact, there’s an argument just waiting for the anti-science crowd to adopt: The Fermi Paradox.

Enrico Fermi, an Italian physicist who created the first nuclear reactor, asked (I paraphrase): If the universe is so big (100 billion galaxies, 50 sextillion Earth-like planets) and so old (13.82 billion years), there should be 10,000,000,000,000,000 intelligent civilizations in the observable universe and, after millions of years of technological progress, an alien civilization should be capable of long-distance space travel. So where is everyone?

Well, as I said, there are some neighbors of mine who say aliens have already been here. How could we miss them? Government coverup of UFO sightings is a popular — and not wholly dismissible — theory.

Either way, I say the METI people — who used to be the SETI people — have the right idea. Be pro-active. Send out a big hello to the universe. An inter-galactic tweet. Get an international group of smart, sensitive people from various walks of life to create it. Set up contingencies for what to do if we get a reply … or a visit. War or peace. Then push the button over and over again for however long it takes for some life form out there to receive and understand it.

For the record, a three-minute message was sent out to the universe from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico in 1974, under the direction of Drake. It has yet to reach its destination, but it drew immediate strong opposition from the Royal Astronomer of England at the time, who, like Hawking, warned of placing the earth in peril. Since then, we’ve been mostly listening.

I don’t expect to be around when the message is received — they’re talking about light years here, remember — but I do think it’s the synchronistic thing to do. Someone has to get the ball rolling. Douglas Vakoch, the head of METI, says the fears are exaggerated. He thinks 100 years of television and radio signals sent into space should have — for better or worse — already alerted aliens to our existence and he plans to start sending messages next year.

So … hello, world.

rjgaydos@gmail.com