Calling All Stargazers and Kindred Spirits

 

Back in 1979, astrophysicist / author Carl Sagan and writer / producer Ann Druyan were both working diligently towards successfully launching their Sci-Fi film… Contact… off the Tinseltown storyboards and into our cineplexes.

Within six years, undue, unwanted, unproductive behind the scenes, Hollywood “drama” had begun to undo this dynamic duo’s momentum and, at one point, had even threatened to scrub their mission. As it turned out, it would take the transposition of 1979’s ending 7 and 9 digits before this film could be completed.

Sadly, mere months prior to that, Dr. Sagan, had succumbed to myelodysplasia (a pre-leukemic syndrome) and wound up shuffling off this mortal coil.

Had he survived, he certainly would’ve been on hand to high-five Contact’s screenplay writers James V. Hart and Michael Goldenberg, director Robert Zemeckis and the entire cast and crew. He’d have especially applauded the multifaceted actress, Jodie Foster, for her stellar performance… for her breathing so much life into the film’s protagonist… the multidimensional astronomer Ellie Arroway.

Seeing how Sagan and Druyan’s core principles / personae had become so thoroughly infused into the Contact script’s pages (in a sense, right down to the atomic structure of the ink toner and papyrus) it was inevitable that Foster would tap into their attributes throughout the film… especially during the emotionally charged denouement… i.e., where Dr. Arroway had so passionately addressed the conclave of her wholly skeptical and wildly infuriated adversaries… had spoken of the life changing, journey to the cosmos, which had further heightened her pre-existing, astronomer’s lofty outlook on life.

Said she…

“I… had an experience… I can’t prove it, I can’t even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real! I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever… A vision… of the universe, that tells us, undeniably, how tiny, and insignificant and how… rare, and precious We all are! A vision that tells us that We belong to something that is greater then ourselves, that We are not, that none of us are alone! I wish… I… could share that… I wish, that everyone, if even for one… moment, could feel… that awe, and humility, and that hope. But… That continues to be my wish.”

SIDEBAR: Ironically, in an earlier scene (set within this same venue) many of these same inquisitors had expected agnostic Arroway to take a leap of faith… to no questions asked / no skepticism allowed… believe in the existence of a Supreme Being. YET… by film’s end… they, themselves, flat-out refused to take a similar leap of faith… to no questions asked / no skepticism allowed… believe in the existence of the superior alien civilization she claimed to have made first contact with.

So… why have I opted to review a 21-year-old film?

Contact makes contact with the very hearts and souls of everyone who has ever given a damn about the survival of our civilization. It is the skywatchers of our world who, perhaps, feel this the strongest… be We the professional or the backyard variety… be We telescopically enhanced or relying solely on the naked eye.

We can feel an affinity with all who have ever seen… who still see… beyond the pure science… all who speak of the awe, humility and hope, which our viewing experiences conjur up. Such a state of mind endures whether We are virtually traveling thru our ethereal, vast starlit cosmos or are wandering about our hometowns, homelands and home world.

Although we do remain resolute re the awe and humility aspects, holding onto hope is not always so easy. You see, its just as the celestial images begin to fade into the daylight… just as we’re coming back down to earth… where / when the heavyhearted dismay tends to resurface. Once again, our worldly thoughts zero in on the godforsaken, power-hungry, posturing, avarice driven, dictator zeros who usually wind up calling all the shots… and… in that capacity… are to blame for our global, sociopolitical and ecological disarray.

The run-of-the-mill, disconnected from our universe autocrat could never, truthfully, claim to be the humble servant he is supposed to be… could not even begin to fathom / embrace Saganesque awe, humility and hope. His typical reaction to viewing celestial objects / events would not likely garner much more than his yawned out words…

These are just dots in the sky, what more do you expect Me to say?

Me oriented leadership is precisely the problem. That odious, oafish What’s in it for me, Me, ME? bad ‘tude is the driving force behind virtually all of our societal ills. Their tormented, subjugated victims, while (oft literally) crying out for some much needed liberation, seldom possess the power to empower alternative, We oriented leadership.

Indeed, it’s the We oriented philosophy, which is so harmonious with the stargazers’ awe, humility and hope. This is amply illustrated within that above Arroway quotation where she thrice uttered the word “We”. And let’s not forget to include her inclusive language such as “us”, “ourselves” and “everyone”. Were such sentiments fully taken to heart by our leaders, We would already be well on our way to saving humanity from ruin.

It is no accident that Founding Father / author Gouverneur Morris began the U.S. Constitution’s Preamble with the words “We the People”. He and his constitutional compatriot co-writers deemed those three words so crucial that even the likeminded calligrapher, Jacob Shallus, had so boldly pen stroked those three key words in an enlarged font.

“We the People

of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence [sic], promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

When such a proclamation births such a great nation, one has to wonder how any electorate could ever tap into some lame, Donny-Come-Lately’s slanderous, spurious / fake claim that America is no longer great. Ironically, such an entity is usually the one who… in the end… winds up threatening the very greatness of all great nations.

Why oh why is it that the nations of our world suffer such a deficit of We oriented leaders? One would expect admirable attributes such as awe and humility to be innate. Even if advancing this attitude involves nurture more than nature it should still be easily attainable.

Metaphorically speaking, We are all participants in the human race… a relay race. In the course of running our laps… concurrently upon our planet’s orbital path and the more down to Earth race track… the intergenerational passing off of the baton of human decency should occur without a hitch… a simple matter of the hand-off from each awe-humility-hope-harboring elder trainer to each awe-humility-hope-hungering youngster trainee.

I do have my parents to thank, for they not only deeply encoded / embedded awe-humility-hope into my infinitesimal DNA during my conception but also reinforced these attributes by handing off that “baton” to me during my formative years.

What a pity so many, who fancy themsleves leaders, cannot make a similar proclamation.

I do suppose that Awe-Humility-Hope sentimets… that We trumps Me ‘tude… all being second nature to the stargazers and other kindred spirits of our world, this is what accounts for our expectations that the rest of humanity will be willing to follow suit.

Let us hope that such sentiments… such expectations… are not overly optimistic.

 

 

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A Sense of DNA Level Déjà Vu [Part 3]

 

Over the course of this blog series’ first two installments, you and I’ve been teleporting back to my July 28th, telescopic “travels” to Mars. While, we’ve been exploring my astronomical, philosophical and theological observations / musings, we have yet to ferret and flesh out the underlying causes of my chronic, Mars Mania “affliction”… that is until now.

With Part 3 about to unfold, I pause to announce a slight course correction re my mission to the cosmos. Rather than revisiting this past Saturday’s viewing session, we’ll be reliving the return to my backyard open air observatory at 3:50 a.m. EDT (0750 GMT) on this very day… July 31st. I just had to “be there” at that precise moment… at the very pinnacle of 2018’s Mars and Earth rendezvous… to experience the almost palpable cosmic magic in the air.

Remaining ever mindful of Part 3’s content prerequisites, as I metaphorically wander about the heavens and the recesses of my mind, I start to zero in on the origins of my personal obsession with Mars.

As I wistfully gaze upward, I briefly consider the possibility that aliens might be doing the same. Only my not wanting to wake up my neighbors prevents me from yelling skyward at the top of my lungs, “Is there anybody out there?” Of course, my dismay regarding the present-day ideological disarray of my homeland… our home world… has certainly, detrimentally impacted my attitude (not unlike a meteor hit). How so? Well, were any ET’s to ever flyby my neighborhood, I’d instantly stick out my thumb and attempt to hitch a ride. Even if their motives were unclear… even if it’d be a certain, one-way trip for me… in a heartbeat… I’d still take my chances and opt to forever leave planet Earth.

Alas… long sigh… on this night… there are no such, extraordinary, extraterrestrial vehicular light patterns in the skies… soooooo… I must make the best of the ordinary.

And I do that, precisely, by granting free rein to my boyhood recollections. Naturally, Mars themed literary works come to mind. First up, my Middle Schooler era, figurative feasting upon my book club purchased, paperback copy of H. G. Wells’ page turner, Sci-Fi novel, The War of the Worlds. Next up, come my elementary school library visits… my checking out astronomy textbooks… their authors’ content, eventually, proving to be more fiction than fact. About the only thing they had ever gotten right? The Red Planet’s 24 hour and 37 minute diurnal rotation!

That’s about all anyone could ever expect from authors “infecting” themselves with the “contagion” of astronomer Percival Lowell’s over-imaginative “strain” of Mars Mania (and I do good-naturedly employ those enclosed in quotation marks, italicized words). Their perpetuation of his fantasyland… an irrigation canal networked, hospitable to humans, environment… coupled with my younger, overly impressionable mind… accounts for my own fantasies of becoming a spacefarer aboard NASA’s very first Mars-ward bound spacecraft.

My mind next crossfades to the plights of Sci-Fi stranded astronauts portrayed in films such as 1964’s Robinson Crusoe on Mars (which takes literary liberties with the Daniel Defoe classic) and in 2015’s The Martian based on Andy Weir’s sci-fi book of the same title.

As these big screen drama scenes dissolve to the realm of the Sixtes era, small screen, Sci-Fi TV sitcom, I catch myself smiling as I recall My Favorite Martian episodes featuring earthling Tim O’Hara comedically interacting with his spacecraft crashed and marooned, ET “Uncle Martin”.

The TV images soon shift from the ridiculous to the sublime. Philosopher / astrophysicist / author Carl Sagan… via both his book and PBS miniseries Cosmos… presents his Blues For A Red Planet chapter / episode #5. That late, great man… the consummate scientist and dramatist… so adeptly, fact checks / debunks Lowellesque Mars Mania yet, simultaneously rekindles it with seasoned-by-science sanity. In his chapter’s / episode’s epilogue he even speculates…

“The power of Lowell’s idea may, just possibly, make it a kind of premonition. His canal network was built by Martians. Even this may be an accurate prophecy: If the planet ever is terraformed, it will be done by human beings whose permanent residence and planetary affiliation is Mars… The Martians will be us.”

It’s at that moment where my thoughts begin to set, along with Mars’ orb rapidly nearing the hazy, southwestern horizon. As I naked eye glimpse that bright orange dot slipping behind the approaching, thick veil of clouds, I begin loosening the clamps, separating my scope from its tripod.

As I look up one last time, my thoughts of Dr. Sagan’s Cosmos crossfade to his fictional work, Contact. It is during one of that film’s final scenes where silver screen star Jodie Foster… in the lead role of astronomer Ellie Arroway… so fervently… so eloquently… so tearfully serves upward, her own cosmic perspective as…

“A vision of the universe, that tells us, undeniably, how tiny and insignificant… and how rare and precious we all are! A vision that tells us that we belong to something that is greater than ourselves. That we are not… that none of us are alone! I wish i could share that. I wish that everyone… if even for one moment… could feel that awe and humility and hope. That continues to be my wish.”

To continue conveying and living those same sentiments is my wish, too! Hopefully, you feel similarly!

While the gradual dimming of that bright orange dot… a.k.a. Mars 2018… is inevitable in the days and weeks to come, my oneness with our universe shall shine on brightly… eternally. My continually blogging about Mars… on similar cosmic topics… will be unavoidable. After all…

“Transcendental moments, such as these, are where one’s worldly concerns dissolve into the rarefied air. Minds tend to free associate / wander and welcome the timelessness of it all. A sense of DNA level déjà vu also enters the mix… after all… has not humankind been stargazing ever since first standing up on two feet? Ever since that (then) newly evolved posture first allowed us to look upward to the eternal heavens?”

 

As for part 4 to this series… stay tuned…

 

 

Et Tu Sulu?

 

As most of us have heard by now, George Takei… portrayer of Hikaru Sulu in the original Star Trek TV series and in a half dozen big screen films… is now being accused of sexual assault by his alleged victim… male model Scott R. Brunton.

Even though there’s been no legal establishment of guilt or innocence, we now find Takei’s portrait hung in the daily expanding rogues gallery of alleged, Hollywood and Washington DC, sexual predators.

As an avid Sci-Fi fan, I’ve been “onboard” Takei’s starship Enterprise ever since it set forth on its “five year” mission on Earth Date 09/08/1966. Up till this allegation surfaced… his character has frequently been stellar… be his screenplay lines delivered in the Star Trek universe or eloquently orated during his own down-to-earth, real world, social activism (championing liberal causes). Hell, he’s even spoken out against the very type of sexual predatory behavior he’s now being accused of.

We can only hope that Takei’s tweeted sentiments are genuine…

“Those that know me understand that non-consensual acts are so antithetical to my values and my practices, the very idea that someone would accuse me of this is quite personally painful.”

As for who I believe in this specific “he said / he said” matter?

Well, seeing how the percentage of false accusations is typically low… seeing how I’ve been giving credence to others who’ve been exposing performers, producers and politicians (inclusive of a sitting, so-called prez)… seeing how Takei, himself, fessed up to his having forced sex on others when he appeared on shock jock, Howard Stern’s radio program… things are not looking good.

Beyond that… I cannot give a free pass to Takei merely because he’s a liberal. Worse yet, to do so would be tantamount to re-victimizing a victim… something antithetical to my own values.

Obviously, if falsely accused, Takei must deny the charges but… what if his doing so is only self-serving… i.e., just to try to make everything go away ASAP? More to the point, would not a truly innocent man respond thusly…

We can never expect to settle this matter on any social media platform. The more proper venue will be the courtroom where I’m confident, once the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth gets established, a jury of my peers will find me innocent of all wrongdoing.

To the best of my knowledge, there’s neither any arrest warrant nor judicial proceedings pending… but…

Would not a falsely accused person demand his day in court to restore his good name?