Report to the Aliens on the Sad Occasion of December 8 – Redux

miloHey Pal: What is it about early December? In the early days of this otherwise festive month, sad and tragic historical events tend to happen: the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Ecole Polytechnique massacre, and now, the death of Nelson Mandela.

With all due respect and reverence to all of these very important events, there is another anniversary that my mind always goes to at this time of year. And in light of that, this post is a replay of a post that first ran exactly one year ago. Here goes:

Pal, let’s assume, as I’m sure we both do, that there is life on other planets. And let’s also agree that some of those species are bound to be vastly older, wiser and more sophisticated than we humans.

Now, let’s take a larger leap and imagine that a federation of these superior alien races has identified that there appears to be intelligent life on Earth, and a delegation is on its way to determine if we have evolved enough to handle first contact, and to gauge our potential to be useful contributors on the galactic stage.

And, just for fun, let’s get really silly and imagine that they arrive today and I’m the one they talk to first.

I would be honest in my assessment. After all, I don’t want to learn the consequences of lying to superior aliens. I would have to tell them that, unfortunately, there is a lot of evidence that we are not yet ready to be welcomed into their fold and begin our training. On the other hand, there is a lot of evidence that we are. Some examples:

Unfortunately…This Data…

World-religions[1]

As you can see, a huge percentage of the world’s population is still religious. A more chilling way to make the point is this: recent polling results revealed a whopping 68% of registered Republicans in the U.S. – the most powerful country on the planet – believe in demon possession while only 48% believe in climate change (Huffington Post).

With all due respect to the billions of thoughtful, moral, intelligent church-goers out there, this madness has to stop. As long as the prevailing world-view is based on supernatural beliefs, we will continue to make irrational and dangerous decisions. Wars will rage and towers will fall. Legislatures will waste untold hours bickering about who should be allowed to get married rather than solving actual problems. Girls will be forced to have their rapists’ children. Other girls will be killed by their fathers for looking at boys. Obviously, these are the extremes, but they are the result of people living for an imagined afterlife at the expense of this world, and being guided by books written by men who thought the Earth was flat.

On the Other Hand…These Guys…

Richard-Dawkins-001[1]     brights2[1]   touched_pirate[1]

Richard Dawkins                        The Brights            Flying Spaghetti Monster

There are others, but here are some wonderful examples of those leading a charge to convince the world that there is probably no God and that we should stop making decisions based on something for which there is no evidence. They espouse a naturalistic, scientific world-view. They are driving us toward a future when what we know has muscled out the need to believe. They want humankind to agree this world is the only one we’ve got, and this life is the only one we’re going to live. Once we buy into that, we will treat the world and each other better, and make the most out of our life on Earth.

Next, I would talk to the aliens about the next generation…

Unfortunately…The kids working at Best Buy 

True story:

  • Customer walks into Best Buy – tentatively approaches, and is ignored by, three clumps of employees who stand in circles playing with their toys.
  • Customer finally finds an employee who is alone. “E-excuse me?” he ventures.
  • Employee finishes typing text before slowly looking up, and says – “S’up?”
  • Customer asks how long the external hard drive in his hand will last.
  • Employee says: “Oh, like…tons of years.”
  • Customer, realizing all is futile, mumbles thanks and walks away.
  • Employee chirps: “You’re welcome!” And returns to his texting, truly believing that he has made a difference today.

This is the generation in whose hands our future rests?

On the Other Hand…The kids at “We Day” 

True story:

  • In 1995, 12-year-old Craig Kielburger, from Thornhill, Ontario, reads a headline about a Pakistani boy who was murdered for speaking out against child labour.
  • He immediately travels to Asia to see for himself. While there, he publicly cajoles the Canadian Prime Minister into meeting with him, and into raising the issue of child labour with the leaders of both India and Pakistan.
  • He goes on to establish Free the Children and Me to We: international organizations dedicated to making the world a better place; appears on the Oprah Winfrey Show several times. Momentum grows. Jump to…
  • …2012: thousands of cheering children pack into the Air Canada Centre for Kielburger’s “We Day” to learn how to change the world, globally and locally. Al Gore and Martin Sheen both speak. So does Spencer West, a guy without legs who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise $100 000 for clean water in Ghana. The next day, programs to fight hunger and poverty are started in schools all around Ontario. Meanwhile, “We Day” moves on to 7 other major cities around North America.

This is the generation in whose hands our future rests.

we day  We Day

Assuming I still have the aliens’ attention, I would go on. On the plus side, there are the Olympics, the Mars Rover and social workers. On the negative, there is war, creationists and people who think the colour of your skin matters.

All in all, it seems to be a wash.

The last thing I would do, in an effort to tip the scales, is play John Lennon’s “Imagine”:

Imagine there’s no heaven It’s easy if you try No hell below us Above us only sky Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries It isn’t hard to do Nothing to kill or die for And no religion too Imagine all the people living life in peace

You, you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one I hope some day you’ll join us And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions I wonder if you can No need for greed or hunger A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people sharing all the world

You, you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one I hope some day you’ll join us And the world will live as one

And the aliens would say, “Yes – this is it. This man with the gentle voice has perfectly described an evolved society in just 131 words. It’s genius. There is hope for humankind. Please take us to him right away.”

And I would say, “I can’t.”

And they would say, “why not?”

And I would say, “because someone killed him. Someone killed him 33 years ago today – December 8, 1980.”

And they would ask, “why?”

And I would say, “Uh, for no particular reason.”

And they would say, “thank you for your time,” get back in their spaceship and tell the Galactic Federation – not yet.

Not yet.

And maybe many years from now they will check back and see if we’re any closer. And maybe we will be. One thing’s for sure: you, me, and that yahoo from Best Buy will be long gone. Sorry I blew our chances, Pal.

In the meantime, peace…

john-lennon[1]  1940-1980

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5 responses to “Report to the Aliens on the Sad Occasion of December 8 – Redux

  1. Craig Kielberger is a practicing Catholic. “Imagine” that, a person with a spiritual side spearheading such an important and inspiring event.

    We live in a shared world of 8 billion people or so. Some of these people rely on spirituality to cope on a day-to-day basis. Some don’t. Maybe some who do, shouldn’t. Maybe some who don’t, should.

    Many normal, moderate Catholics have the ability to bridge their scientific and spiritual sides. Recent Nobel Prize winners who also just happen to be Catholic include: Mario Molina (1995- Chemistry), Anthony Leggett (2003 –physics), Brian Kobilka (2012 – chemistry), Peter Grunberg (1986 –physics), Riccardo Giacconi (2002 – astrophysics); Gerhard Ertl (2007 – chemistry), Albert Claude (1974 – medicine), Christine de Duve (1974 – medicine/physiology), Craig Mello (2006 – medicine/physiology), John Polanyi (1986 – chemistry), and Eric Wieschaus (1995 – medicine/physiology). This doesn’t seem like “madness” to me. Intelligence? Yes. Tolerance? Yes. Respect? Yes. “Madness?” No.

    I teach at a Catholic secondary school. In my science classes the students learn that all matter that currently exists and that has ever existed started with a big bang from a point of singularity almost 14 billion years ago. In my math classes they learn to solve various sorts of functions using mathematical concepts, some of which will help them further understand the physics and chemistry concepts behind what they learned in science class. Then they go to their religion class and learn that at the core of virtually every world religion – Aboriginal/Native, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Jainism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, and Sihkism – they will find the same messages: peace, forgiveness, respect for the earth, respect for the disadvantaged, and social justice.

    Why? Because we want them to recognize that on this planet, there are people (both religious and non-religious) that exploit the earth, its resources, and its people. I truly believe if aliens were to visit they would be quite concerned as to the overwhelming disparity between rich and poor and why it has come to this. It has been said, that the most evil people in the world wear suits and ties. If I know my shirt from the Gap was made from unsafe child labour, why do I buy and wear it? Why do I drive when I can ride? Why would I ever buy anything from the dollar store? Why didn’t I say anything when that kid was getting bullied? Why didn’t I hold the door for that person? Why didn’t I vote? The problems and solutions of the world are within each and everyone of us. We make many choices everyday. Some of them suck. Some of them are great.

    When all is said and done, this is what I know: barring any unfortunate accident or disease, as a male my heart (the greatest pump known to man) will pump blood through my body for about 80 years (hopefully longer). If during this time I feel I can be a better person to the other 8 billion that share this relatively small planet in the cosmos for roughly the same time by being a Catholic, then that’s what I’m going to do. If being an Aboriginal, Taoist, Jew, Muslem, Buddhist, Agnostic or Atheist will allow you to do the same, then all the power to you.

    Oh yeah, Martin Sheen is a Catholic as well…And like me, a fellow Catholic, I doubt he has ever believed in demon possession. Now I’m off to watch Jon Stewart (Jewish) and Stephen Colbert (Catholic). They make me laugh, they’d probably make the aliens laugh as well.

  2. The list of great Catholic NFLers was very long. But, the Top Ten Catholic Heroes of the Superbowl was more manageable. 10. Dave “the Ghost” Casper (tight end –Raiders – SB XI); 9. Chris Godfrey (lineman – NY Jets then Giants – SB XXI); 8. Rickey Nattiel (WR – Broncos – SB XXII); 7. IRON MIKE DITKA (TE then Coach – Da BEARS – SB VI and SB XIX); 6. Joe Jurevicius (WR – Buccaneers – SB 2003); 5. Bob Griese (QB – Dolphins – SB VII); 4. Ed McCaffrey (WR – 49ers/Broncos – 3 SBs all in the 1990s); 3. Mark Bavarro (TE – Giants – SB XXI and XXV); 2. Brett Favre (QB – Packers – SB 2006); and 1. Roger Staubach who is credited with having coined the term “hail mary” for long bombs (QB – Cowboys – SB VI, and SB in 1978).

    Most of these men have use their fame and finances to be involved in/create charities for children with various educational, medical, and other disadvantages, as well as toward medical issues relating to women (primarily breast cancer). Did they have to be religious to do this? No. But giving to those who need is what is promoted among all religions.

  3. The December month does have some sad anniversaries and we can now add the death of Nelson Mandela to that list.
    However, it is also the month in which we celebrate the birth of Jesus. The tragic result of so much evil done in the name of religion has soured us on what could otherwise be such a beautiful thing. If we take “religion” out of it and just look at the wonderful legacy of Jesus’ teachings e.g. the parable of the good Samaritan, the thought provoking and endearing words of the sermon on the mount (the beatitudes) to name just a few it can be so inspiring. I was raised in the Christian faith, but other faiths probably have similar inspirational words to draw on.
    Yes, faith in God is probably irrational (I have read Dawkins book and writings make sense to the rational mind). Not sure if I could make any rational argument for believing in God but will quote from that famous letter written many years ago.
    “they do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge”
    of course the writer is talking about believing in Santa Claus, but it could apply as well to faith in God…or something bigger than us. Read on
    “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.”

    • Hi Johanna:
      Thanks for your thoughts. How could I argue? Bottom line – I think we agree it’s a big, beautiful, wondrous world and we humans best serve ourselves by serving each other and the world around us. Be good. Do good. Let the world be better because you were in it.
      And, yeah, Jesus was a cool dude. I think he and John Lennon would have gotten on famously.
      Milo Pal

  4. I grew up in a family who were anti-religious, which is strange since they were both church goers for much of their lives. I learned about God and religion because I was interested. Is there a god? I don’t know the answer to that. I would like to believe that there is someone watching over us, guiding us and teaching us to be good people. The only thing that I am sure of is that as religion fades into the background and the amount of believers lessen, we as a race are losing ourselves. There is so many people out there that seem lost and in search of something….be it religion itself or simply that bond that comes with those who share the same beliefs. That sense of community is being lost and I absolutely feel that as people, we need that sense of community. Religion used to bring that. The Sunday picnics, the church gatherings, the fundraisers for the church, the extra services, the visits to those in the parish who are ill or need extra support. We have lost that. It makes me sad. I don’t know if it existed because there is a god. I do know that it existed because people felt a connection. Those who have faith have that and for that, I am jealous.

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