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                                           BEAMS  -  Chapter 12. Wake-up Call  

WHY SHOULD I be so suspicious of the alien’s true intentions?  After all, I didn’t give him my personal identity number or bank account number and the information I was telling him was public record, as was all the data he might have found in his computerized searches. 

     Perhaps he was sincere in his efforts.  He was simply accessing obvious public information about our own creative self-destruction.  Why was I so suspicious?  I really wasn’t someone with such a nature.  I was taught to presume innocence, until guilt is proven beyond the shadow of a doubt.

     I started thinking about this answer, and began asking myself if he was simply lying or not.  I always had a hard time detecting lies among humans, a personal shortcoming which at times made me bitter, wondering whether my inability to uncover human deception had been the cause of my downfall and current adverse economic situation.  And if I were so bad at detecting lies among humans, how much more so would I be with an inability to detect lies from a being who came from so far away?

     Imagine a machine that could accurately detect lies.  Such a device would be the greatest invention since the wheel.   It probably would make detective TV shows obsolete.  No need for creative people who produced them like Quinn Martin, Steven j. Cannell or Dick Wolf.  An effective lie-detector would change civilization as we know it forever and perhaps for the better.  Imagine how it could be used to detect all the lies that politicians make, those done with kind-hearted demeanors bordering on ethical misdemeanors and the demonic.  I’m sure my buddy the politician-hater Emmett Odom would have approved of this “Truth or Dare” technology. 

    I remembered our discussion about faith and trust.  Perhaps I judged him too soon.  Maybe my own faith and trust had eroded so greatly.   On the other hand, my conscience and training taught me that one cannot use inductive reasoning built up on past cases in order to pass judgment on the next case.  It’s like applying for jobs: Just because every one of the employment positions I had applied for turned out unsuccessful, it didn’t mean that the next one wouldn’t actually be successful.  I guess this is why an unemployed person seeking employment shouldn’t give up.  Our own justice system is based on presumed innocence of intentions, whether it relates to individual people or job openings.  Was I being too naïve in that presumption of innocence?

     He was still ticking and clicking away in the next room, so I had an opportunity to think over the suspicious intent of my intra-galaxial interloper.  The clicking and ticking noise indicated to me he was writing a letter of some kind, but if that were the case, how could he type in Latin letters to his own collaborators?  Did they know a language that had words comprised of English letters?  Was that really a “universal” language?   Or maybe the ticking and clicking noise was emanating from his own antennae or his other weird-looking appendages. 

     After several minutes the clicking noise of the keyboard stopped, and I wasn’t sure what to expect when he re-entered the room.  But I appreciated the lengthy respite, and was ready to re-engage the inquisitor.  I just wasn’t sure what aspect of his investigation would be next.  Although I was getting a bit impatient and hungry waiting for the pizza to be delivered, I was admittedly distracted by the clash of wits with this extraterrestrial traveler. 

     While I pondered this a bit weak and weary from the hunger, he came back into the room, dazed by the information input which apparently threw into disarray everything he had known about our planet.  When he first came here, I did bring up the idea somewhat facetiously that he was trying to invade my planet, and I remember he replied “not at all.” 

     Now he sat back down on the fauteuil, looking somewhat less befuddled than before, a bit more refreshed than previously.  “Your problems, it seems, emanate from one basic human flaw” he said, sounding like a doctor who had taken a look at the x-rays of a patient.  “They all boil down to humanity’s lack of faith and trust in itself.”

     “Lack of faith and trust?” I replied, noting the irony of his conclusion with my own contemplation just before he re-entered the room.  Both our angles seemed both complementary and supplementary, and yet our lines of thought were unpredictably parallel while impossibly intersecting on this most essential point. 

      I then continued my reactive question with a proactive assertion:  “Why, faith and trust are the bricks and mortar of our society into which each of us has been submitted, and is the same faith and trust I have when I hit the “submit” button to send a résumé on-line.

     "But the notions of good faith and trust are much more sublime than that.  They are the sine-qua-non cornerstones of our religions, whether the focus of the religion is the generation of good deeds, salvation of the soul, or submission to the will of God.”

     Despite the cynical nature of my estimation of organized religion, which I had always felt had too many false prophets as well as profits, I was being sincere with my wording.  I made that previous exclamation with all the respectful veneration I could muster on an empty stomach, while taking the stance of the quintessential human of my day. 

     “The subject of theology isn’t my forte,” I responded rather apologetically.  “I have never been a religious person – except for when I sit in the passenger seat with someone else driving.  Riding shotgun can induce the most intensive prayer with heightened sincerity.”

     I wasn’t sure if he understood my levity, but he rebounded in a somber tone:

     “I am not talking about organised religion but about faith and trust.  True faith is more than just about supplication, salvation, or submission.  It is a profound trust runs deeper than the acquisition of wealth through diamonds, petroleum, or interest payments.  A true belief system entails more than distinguishing between fraternal patriarchs such as Abram and Haran, Isaac and Ishmael, or Jacob and Esau.”

     Like all tribal confrontations, when soldiers on both sides stay in tents war can’t be intense.  As Balaam’s curse-turned blessing showed, tents can be praised as places of worship and gratitude, while gracious sanctuary much of the time must come before you’re welcome in worship rather than warship. 

     Like all tribal confrontations among rival congregations, when all soldiers stay off the intense battlefield, peace may result since war can’t be waged intense or otherwise.  For in peace curses have been known to be turned to blessings where tents are be praised as places of worship rather than warships.  The gratitude of gracious sanctuary much of the time must come before you’re welcome in numbers.

     In both war and peace, controversial politics tend to intertwine so neatly with science and religion, making a veritable ménage-a-trois of strange bedfellows.   No empire in the cradle of western civilization, and no ancient superpower between the rivers of Mesopotamia between Iraq and a hard place, can read the handwriting on the wall:  “Mine, mine to kill. And Persian” prophecies have been foretold since the time of Daniel.  It’s not clear if that handwriting spells out a prophecy concerning a 21st century regime in Persia whose atomic ayatollah and his prime sinister attempt to unite religion, politics, and nuclear energy to warm the heart.  Maybe that’s why many people feel that there are three things one should never discuss: Religion, politics, and global warming.

     The alien scratched his freakish anti-capitalist head and continued: “I am referring to a basic belief system which seems lacking in your humanity not only these times, but also throughout your bloody history.” 

     “I really don’t know what you’re referring to,” I said, telling him the truth with all the faith and trust I could muster on an empty stomach.  He was obviously not telepathic, or he would have sensed somehow that I was hungry and perhaps would have had a bit more understanding, considering my current vacuous limitations.  I was in no condition to become confounded in a profound debate fraught with potentially fervent emotion.   

     He now looked aside and down as if he were trying to select his words carefully, then after about half a minute or so, retorted “It seems odd that many of you humans place a great deal of emphasis on prayer.  But while at the same time you are so suspicious of each other that you have such a dismal opinion of true belief and faith.  To the same God you pray, but on each other you prey

     The subject of prayer made me think again of the errant reverend from Poseidon Adventure, trying to say something which he could better relate to.  He nevertheless continued, “You seem to have grasped the idea of Descartes’ Meditations, in his first argument.  Your selfishness is characterised in your applications of the premise ‘Cōgitō Ergo Sum – I think therefore I am’.”  

     I felt I needed to follow up on his comment, if for nothing else than being polite.  All I could muster up was a rather benign statement:  “That premise is well known to many of us.”  

     Descartes’ foundation premise arguing ultimately for the existence of a Supreme Being was familiar to many of our people.  I was surprised again to learn that this visitor had the breadth of knowledge of our classic philosophers.  He paused as if to enable me to digest the idea.

     For me personally, the whole notion of “I” was the basis of my belief in God.  It was more than a personal ID; it was my ego-cōgitō incognito, something special that I felt was a personal keepsake of mine.  Like Descartes, I used this egocōgitō as my own rule of signs, a sort of personal point of origin.  Egocogito had become my first philosophy from which every internal beam radiated and every reflection was meditated.  The association of my soul to my body, as in that famous Raphael renaissance painting, was a lifetime.  It was me.  My soul wasn’t in anyone else’s body.

     We have no real way of knowing what seeks out what in the beginning.   Do transient wayward souls seek out newly forming vacant zygote bodies?  Do they engage in body snatching?  Does the corporal assignment of the soul take place after expiration of a viable canister, in which that soul seeks out a newborn or fetal canister at the same instant of his death? 

     Or is it the other way around, that a newly formed embryo goes soul searching?  Does the assignment take place when the newly generated viable canister is a fetus or an embryo or a zygote?  Does this happen only with humans or with all animals to a different extent?

     After the bough breaks and the cradle of the viable canister falls, what happens?  Does the corpus contain the soul, or does the soul habeas the corpus?  What contains what?  And at what point does the “what” become a “who”? 

     The point in time when assignment takes place is a critical arguing point for those who debate the controversial issue of abortion.  Though I always felt that abortion is an issue for only half the population to debate and decide - the female half - I never doubted that the subject matter was an intriguing one for renaissance men in all walks of life.   God made men and women with the responsibility of decision and judgment going to the women.  Decisions of abortion and early life belong to the wife, while the more mundane acts such as husbandry are typically in the domain of the man’s mandate.  Even if the woman’s role is that of home-maker, the other is the head of the house.  You couldn’t interchange house with head any more than you could change Arabic with Hebrew simply by switching two letters around in their respective Semitic letterings.

     While some souls are just dying to be reincarnated, others dread the corporal punishment of a new product life-cycle generated by another act of reproduction.  But if so many people are against abortion, why are there no laws requiring the burial of embryos, although there are now attempts to pass laws concerning burial of fetuses only from the 8th week of pregnancy? 

     After some soul-searching of my own, having reached the deeply-niched quarters of somewhere between my inner sanctum to the outer limits of my existential essence, I tried hard to counter his statement.  I found that my flesh was willing but my will was weak. 

     “Well,” he continued his assessment, “Your problems seem to begin when you ignore the second person of this foundation.  What I mean is, if each of you is a dot, you should be connecting the dots and forming a line of empathy.  True faith begins when you leap to the next dimension:  ‘Cōgitās Ergo Es – YOU think, therefore YOU are.’

     Here was a new take on this classical thinking.  It was an epiphany similar to the one we first experienced when we paused from our everyday activities on the surface of our planet and looked upwards towards the whirlwind glow in the stars above.  Copernicus is popularly considered as the one who first took the “I” out of the center of the universe, arguing that our realm was one planet out of several that circled the sun.  It was a new way of thinking, a new dimension that struck us as hard as the time Galileo showed us the possibilities of understanding the upward realm in the sky past the stars.   

     Taking the “I” out of the universe does more than just turn them into unverses.  Now I am replaced by you, and my two eyes are replaced with the second person “U”.  These days that letter has replaced “you” on texts and tweets.  Now I felt it necessary to reconsider the “W” argument where the notion of work is the energizing factor in both thermodynamics and human civilization.  Perhaps the “W” is more than just “V” taken squared; it may in fact be the second person “U” taken to the second power, generating what we call the letter “double-you”.    

     The realization that there are others out there who are at the spiritual centers of their own universe, that they have consciousness and experience their own pain and pleasure, perceive their own perceptions is something more than just an extension of the belief that I think and therefore I am.

     There are many types of Taos, many paths that include unfortunately, sociopaths and psychopaths.  Maybe it is our Divinely inspired challenge to find that right Earthly path.  Such a challenge requires pathfinders to take that leap of faith that the “others” out there are sentient beings who experience consciousness in their own minds’ “I”.  The path to sympathy and empathy is often difficult, and those without that true faith ultimately fail.  I always thought these are the true infidels; those who don’t believe that other “I”s exist.    This infidelity is evidenced not only by their desire to decapitate the innocent and slam planes into buildings, but by their claiming that they are doing these horribly sociocidal acts in the name of God.  They are using that Name as an excuse and pretense for their evil.  That makes this a case of double in-damnity for those who have set their sights on a socio/psycho path towards others of their own damnation.     

     “You see, human, I can prove only that I think and feel, but must take it on faith that you think and feel,” he continued.  “It is just that I cannot prove that you are a thinking and feeling being just like me.  I have to take it on faith.  In a way, it is the largest leap one can take.”

     This was a different way of looking at belief systems.  I tried to analyze it, but my hunger had weakened my ability to concentrate.  All I could say was, “I think I understand what you’re saying,” trying to digest his argument on an empty stomach with little to digest.  The pizza had still not arrived.  Maybe they delivered it to his home planet instead.

     Then he surprised me with a stab to the heart, asking “Do not you believe that I exist?”

     Since I wasn’t sure whether this was a dream or not, I had to take it on faith that he DID exist and was a thinking, sentient being with feelings and a conscience of his own, like mine.  “I do, otherwise I wouldn’t be talking to you.”

     “And I believe that YOU exist, too, for the same reason.  So now we have connected the dots, and have belief in a two dimensional system.  But what about the others out there, those whom we have met and those whom we may never meet?  Doesn’t true faith begin when you leap to the third dimension?  This would be in the form “Cōgitānt Ergo Sunt – They think, therefore they are.” 

     Now HERE was something new.  It was, in fact, first taking the “I think therefore I am” premise to the next step, to a second dimension by mentioning the ‘you think’ idea, and then to a third dimension by mentioning the ‘they think’ leap of faith. 

     I guess our bodies were generated with nervous systems that are separate from other bodies.  Our souls are ‘isoulated’, or you might say ‘insoulated’ by our viable canisters.  We all are, in a way, protected from others’ pain rather than connected through automatic empathy.  So in order to appreciate others’ suffering, we have to go beyond our own linear thinking and empathize with our fellow human-beings.  Some might say this is part of a Divine test to see if we as a species is worthy of God’s mercy.  Our nervous systems are not made to be “fused” between people.  We can’t really share dreams, and though we can sympathize with someone else’s pain, it is usually as an internalization of the type “Gee am I glad I’m not that person.” 

     Though we can share ideas, music, feelings and thoughts, we humans are not normally empaths.  Our experiences are separate from other persons – even our parents and children.  This has been proven every time an adopted child is looking for his or her biological parents.  Since they have no spiritual connection with their biological parents they don’t have a hint as to who their mothers or fathers were.  The connection we have with our parents, siblings, children, and other relatives are introduced to us not genetically, but rather environmentally through familiar social factors that are in many ways tribal.  Language is the most telling factor of such purely acquired development that is familiar, tribal, and environmental.  This is that same Pygmalion argument of heredity vs. environment with all its implications about environmentally sane societies.  

     So even with our closest relatives, we can only take it on faith that their souls do indeed exist in their designated bodies.  Though familiarity can at times lead to contempt, the similarity of genetic chromosomal patterns does not forge spiritual connections, relatively speaking.

     “You see, human, though I can take it on faith that YOU think and feel, and can prove that I think and feel just like Descartes claimed, I cannot prove that he was thinking and feeling being just like me.  I have to take it on faith just like I did with you.  In a way, believing that others think and are existing is the largest leap one can take.”

     The alien really threw a three dimensional curve ball, a new spherical view of religion in which there is a recognition of first person point, second person line, and third person plane struck me out like a batter who couldn’t even see a fastball over the plate.  I guess you could add a dimension throughout the comparison and think of first person as being a line, second person as being a flat geometric shape, and third person as being a three dimensional structure like a sphere or cube. 

     The alien’s model of faith made me think of my recurring dream with its causality loop.  It made me think that death itself has three dimensions:  The first when I die and my soul leaves my body; the second when I exist only in the memory of others, and third when I am forgotten by everyone while there would be no one alive who remembered me first-hand.

     After a brief pregnant pause in order to allow the birth of a new idea and to allow me to adjust my thinking to this paradigm of faith, he continued, “If only your leaders would consider that other people have consciousness in the same way that your or I do, things would really be better.  If the emperors, tyrants, pharaohs, Caesars, tsars and dictators of your centuries had believed that the others in the world were thinking and feeling beings of conscience like themselves, their faith would have been genuine by this logic, and so much suffering could have been avoided.  The same thing happened with various rapscallion dictators from Caesar to the Kaiser to the Czar.  It continues into your more recent history with your deadly snollygoster gangsters madder than ides-of-march-heirs such as Hitler and Stalin, each who claimed to have principles of fairness, calling themselves ‘socialists’, both of the National type and the Soviet type.  They were sociopaths in very sense of the word, perpetrators of millions of victims of socio-cide.”

     So here was another term in the apple-cider grouping.  Earlier he mentioned “species-cide”, and now “socio-cide was added to the murderers’ row.  We were like a murder of crows more savage than Cro-Magnons.    

     The alien’s argument was most compelling.  We don’t always stop to think that other people have feelings, too.  They have consciousness and thought.  They are not mere projections or figments of our imagination.  They can be happy or sad; they can enjoy pleasure and suffer pain.

     Understanding this is where true faith begins.   It becomes more compelling when I realize that I am different from my parents and from my children, a distinct conscience with separate thoughts and feelings from those who generated me and those whom I have generated.  Even very close relatives sense and experience things differently.  Though we are so closely related, we are separate thinking & sensing entities.

     “The three dimensional view is more than the unification of mathēmatikoi numerics and akousmatikoi trust as components of Greek pythagoreanism.  Palingenesis and transmitigation of the soul is our way of perceiving truth on Zatox.  We are intrigued that your own philosophers such as Lao Tzu, Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha, and Xenophilus of Chaldikike shared similar philosophies even though they came from completely different parts of the world.  Your Jaina Dharma which you call Jainism, as well as the Rivgeda all seem to carry variations on the subject, while the Egyptian Book of the Dead from one of the Thebes Dynasties takes on an emphasis of the afterlife rather than reincarnation.  Reincarnation is not a notion limited to the Inca nation or the Hindu faith, but is a rather cross-cultural idea on your Earth.   But the three dimensional view I was discussing deals with the here and the now, as you like to call it.  The consciousness of the soul, with all its existential nature held intact and perhaps prisoner to the viable canister that holds it.”    

     This was a lot for one to think of on an empty stomach.  My own viable canister was sending signals to my central nervous system that it was time to eat.  Though they were intriguing, his comments were at the moment no more than just words.  I was too tired and hungry to continue the discussion.  That was unfortunate.  

     “We touched on this before, but did not connect the cause to a lack of faith and trust in the people.  While these Orwellian dictators and tyrants ruled by intimidation - and many of their type still exist in your current time – including your so-called ‘enlightened’ leaders of today, who have been voted into office in what you call a “democratic” society.  The only difference is, instead of intimidating the people, they choose to ignore them.  This is truly a pity, because those who suffer could have been instrumental in helping your society thrive both today and tomorrow.” 

     I had to agree with this, despite my being distracted with hunger pangs.  Even the most bashful characters among us, those Caspar Milquetoasts out there whose timid souls are victims of soft-speaking stick carriers, aren’t intimidated these days as much as they are simply ignored.  That ignorance seems to represent a new social order, a new control tactic spearheaded by the news media.  It’s much easier to execute ignorance than to threaten the people with bodily execution.

     The new dictatorship of ignorance seemed to take strong hold on our society.  I had thought on numerous occasions how shameful it was that while I am struggling to find work so that I could earn my keep, those elected officials of our democracies today use ignorance of the people to divert their attention elsewhere.  At the same time, these dictators of ignorance ultimately dictate their own salary - either directly or indirectly - and make a lot of your money while in office, and are able to get campaign contributions from the wealthy, while pocketing the “unused” portion of the campaign funds. 

     The people seemed to have learned that their elected officials aren’t really interested in them.  They seem to be telling the people to go to the Devil.  I guess Lucifer has a beaming attitude.  He seems to be one of the few that’s hiring these days and is ready to pay large amounts for the poor souls that buy the deal.  Anyway, it seems he’s mostly interested in striking deals with politicians themselves, often in exchange for getting elected to office. 

     The media treat politicians like celebrities, not serious leaders who are entrusted with good faith by the voters in their leadership.  But like the celebrities, they too need to wake themselves up more and make themselves up less.  The whole thing seems like a show run by show-people with the talents P.T. Barnum, Wild Bill Hickock, Flo Zigfeld, Babe Ruth, and Cecile B DeMille.  Some cynics add Neil Armstrong to that list. 

     In our beloved democratic republic, the political nomination and election processes are treated like a celebrity banquet or a prominent sporting event complete with advertising, color wars, fans, and team standings.   I never knew why the university curriculum was called political “science”.  It always seemed to me to be more of theatrics.  It should have been called political arts.   I’ve heard that there’s no business like show business, and sometimes the politicians make good music indeed.  But why should we have show-people such as movie stars running the show who smile when the people are low?           

     The alien peered at me with an expression that seemed one of understanding.  I noticed that his color had turned from a metallic silver to a bright red while he was analyzing my apparent reactions.  I learned to observe this without getting alarmed. 

     “He continued tirelessly:  “And all this is going on while so many other talented people whom they lead are in constant fear of running out of money, if they have not already.  If the leaders and politicians had true faith and trust in the notion that the people they lead are sentient beings with thoughts, feelings, and consciousness, they would see the need to ensure that all of the people who want to work would be working and contributing to society, not worrying about their economic woes.  That is a true belief system, and it is where faith and freedom actually intersect.” 

      All this made me think about the dreadful prospects of being all alone in the universe.  I mentioned this to the alien, saying “I wonder how people who don’t have that faith and trust in God don’t come to the conclusion that they are totally alone.  They could be monarchs or emperors whose subjects who don’t feel pain and suffering. ”

     “I agree with you, human.  The question ‘does man exist?’ has captured the imagination of both the conquer and the captive.  Even if the ‘other guy’ doesn’t exist, someone else with intelligence does.  Like a ventriloquist’s dummy.  Like Charlie McCarthy or Mortimer Snerd who spoke like independent souls, but were really an extension of the creative mind of the ventriloquist Edgar Bergen.” 

      I was going to say something about those of us dummies who have been endowed with inalienable rights of free speech, and of the media which have been dumbing down their viewers, but the alien continued with his thesis:

     “Or, if the other individuals do not exist, someone intelligent is interacting with me, even if that intelligence is running a program perhaps generated by a holographic projector.  There must be some intelligence engaging me.   We on Zatox have not figured out what or who or Who that projectionist is, either.  It is a philosophical question for beings with greater minds than our own.”

     I nodded in agreement, although I realized I would have to defer my own conclusions until I have had a chance to digest some food for thought.

     Whether we should try to figure this out has been an evasive issue for mankind.  Even on a full stomach I never tried to understand this existential question, including how existence precedes essence.  One of our TV talking horses once said, “Don’t try; it’s bigger than the both of us.”

     The alien’s argument seemed inescapable to me, from both a moral and an existential standpoint.   Both angles would have probably been too obtusely of my reach even if the neurons of my brain had been adequately nourished. 

     Morally, if I were one of the people who didn’t have faith that other people have consciousness, and I am alone in the universe, there would be nothing to keep me from going on a killing spree.  My own morality would allow for that, because there was no code of ethics because I alone exist in the universe.  Only me, me, ME.  As I said in the beginning of this epic, WHY ME?

     Existentially, if I were the only one with a consciousness, how could I be alone if I am engaging an intelligence in some interaction.  Someone would have to be running an interactive holographic program.  And Someone would have had to either place that intelligence in the other being, or be that Being himself - or, as many liberal females would say today - be that Being herself.   In either case, I need to trust that the same Someone had to place your consciousness within you, and the other ones in the others as well.  I realized that I had no proof on this; I had to just take this on faith.

     The alien had waited patiently to continue his diatribe, making sure he hit every relevant button. “We have noticed on Zatox that some of you humans have trouble with the word ‘welfare’, even when it concerns your own people.  You seem to be selfishly preoccupied with the notion of caring for others, no matter what side of the care one is on.  Though the words ‘give’ and ‘take’ are technically opposites, you hesitate to give care to your sick and to take care of your collapsing social structures.”

     Well put, I must say.  I had been aware of the social neglect that had been taking place in our society as v-money gets replaced with p-money.  Archaeologists of the future will hopefully figure this out when they see the collapse of the stable structure of marriage and mortgage, family and familiarity, steady jobs and steadfast routines that provide the mortar for our houses and neighborhoods.  That’s the three legged stool that we once had but has been kicked out from under us.  The legs of steady job, family, and 30-year mortgage once held that up.  But of those three legs, the one most key may be the job, as fear of layoffs will prevent the other two.  The mortality of mortgages and the tensions of tender come to light in the instability of the job market.  

      “If you do not pay attention to the ‘give’ and ‘take’ of the caring aspects of the quality of mercy,” he continued, “then your future generations will suffer from a society that will treat them with disdain.  Look at the college debt facing so many of your young people who have not found jobs after having been promised by society that they should be able to find work upon being graduated from college or university.”

     I actually was very well aware of the plight of these young people.   I sympathized with them and identified with them, as well.  I remember my university years well, though I probably would have enjoyed the years much more if my professors were more like Casey Stengel or Irwin Corey or Roy Hinkley or even Quincy Adams Wagstaff.

     It’s unfortunate that some young people are excusing themselves with a sour grapes attitude, deciding that university degrees are too expensive and are mattering less and less in their pursuit of happiness.   They argue that many academically awarded people are not working full time jobs in their fields of study or in any other profession.  The only thing the degree has given them is insurmountable debt with sharks surrounding them looking for what’s left of their life’s blood.

 

     It didn’t used to be that way.  A university education once taught a young person something useful.  It was more than an official document awarded by some institution’s board of regents.  Most people don’t know what a “regent” is, anyway, and its connection with old-time regal monarchies that contrived ceremonies celebrating the land of hope and glory, mother of the free.  I always did wonder,   What is a “regent”?  By what decree are they empowered to grant a degree?  Why do they and the administrators earn so much?  Do they really deserve it?  What does the board do besides conferring degrees?  What does the administration do besides accepting tuitions from wide-eyed hopeful young people?  Why can’t the regent and administration staff take cuts in order to lower the cost of a university degree?  Why can’t this be done instead of, or at least in addition to enhancing college loan conditions?

 

     It was also never clear to me who in college graduates whom.  Does the administration and the board of regents graduate the students, or do the students graduate the administration and the regents to a wealthier tax bracket?  And if a college degree is so important, why is it that practically no one can tell you from which university Einstein was originally graduated?

 

     Just like medical costs, the cost of a college education should not be so high.  One should be asking now, what value do they have?  What true intrinsic value is there?  Besides getting a diploma from a board of regents, what value is added?  Don’t teachers have that value?  Why are the salaries of a teacher so much less than a university administrator who does not teach?  Why doesn’t someone analyze the cause of high university costs by breaking them down into the contributing components?

 

     It would be interesting to see universities ranked by the number of employed per degree from their alma mater; likewise the worst universities are those whose number of unemployed from a particular institution are the highest. 

 

     In this day and age when a university graduate loses a job, faces foreclosure, suffers a drop in credit rating, can’t rent an apartment because of low if any income, can’t afford even a temporary cheap hotel, becomes homeless without even a car to sleep in, gets kicked off a park bench and into the street, one can become quite fearful even WITH a college degree.  When it comes to kicking someone who is already down, there’s no basement like debasement.

 

     Maybe we should consider bequeathing the next generation with a shovel.  Not to bury us, but to praise our movies and music which once we knew how to produce.  And with that shovel they could dig more than just a basement in debasement.  That shovel could be used to dig deep into the truth like an archaeologist in Pompeii.  They would then figure out what went wrong.

     “You need to understand, human, that you have no alternative but to utilize and deploy these newly emerging graduates,” the alien continued, apparently noticing that I had been deliberating on the subject for the last few minutes.  “These young people are the promise of the future.”

     I guess the future is important.  If we knew what was really going to happen, we could make a fortune.  If I could go back in time to late 1962 or early 1963 I would make a bet that three things would happen by the end of the decade:  1. That Nixon would be inaugurated as president, 2. That American astronauts would land on the moon, and 3. That the hapless New York Mets would win the world series.   No fortune tellers of any appreciable crystal balls could have predicted such an outrageous trilogy of events.  Even if I had placed that bet before May 27 of 1969 with the Mets way behind the Cubs, I would have still made such an unimaginable fortune that would have changed things into the future perfect so that I could be saying:  I WILL have made such a fortune.

     “Even though it has not happened yet, you should never forget the future,” the alien continued his diatribe with a forshpeis morsel of irony.   “Instead of looking backwards, you should focus on what lies ahead.   Like your preoccupation with ghosts.  You humans are so afraid of ghosts from the spirits past that have departed unviable bodies.  Your focus is on the spoiled, not the fresh.  We seldom hear you consider those clean or cleansed spirits of the newborn, those innocent and naïve souls.  After your generation’s work is said and done, and after you are all gone, they will have to inherit the debt you generated.  You should be more concerned about their future haunts when they consider you and your selfish ways.  Souls not yet formed are destined to judge.” 

    Touché.  Another stab to the heart.  His words cut deeper than any pen could.  He made me think of all the innocent children we raise and plan to send off to college.  That innocence made me think of the notion of the Hebrew word “Tamim”, and appreciated those who were truly blameless and guiltless, those who were sufficiently holy and whole to walk with God like the patriarch Ibrahim did as a true friend, the al-Khalil.  We humans are interested in generating new babies as bodies for these clean souls to pervade.  The innocence of being “tamim” is probably connected with notions of kindness we try to teach our kinder.  Is that why we mankind seems to be so preoccupied with abortion issues when we are too focused on departed souls, many who are just dying to be reincarnated?  Why aren’t we as concerned about the quality of life those newly assigned souls will have to confront in their new lifelong assignments? 

    We seem preoccupied with Christmas past and rarely consider Christmas future.  Many of us are preoccupied with contacting the dead, and many of us are afraid of ghosts.  Shouldn’t we be considering those decent descendants not yet placed?  What about those newly naïve spirits?  Their innocence contrasts with our guilt.   Many of them will bear witness to the outcome of our collectively criminal deeds.  They may not be the ultimate Judge, but I still fear the verdict:  Judgment for the plaintiffs.

    The interstellar guest’s message was clear.  It reminded me again of the Ten Commandments movie classic, in which Pharaoh Ramses’ father Sethi, played by the late British actor Cedrick Hartwicke, was confronted with issues concerning the future of Egypt.  He told his two sons, the Ses brothers Ram and Mo, that the reason he gave for his actions was “I owe that to my fathers, not my sons”.  That stands out as an echo through the years, an ominous warning to those in power.  Do you build arrogant monuments to honor your predecessors at the expense of your successors?  Thus always to tyrants who turn blessings bestowed by their fathers into curses of poverty onto their descendants.  Sick tyrannical tempers flare up.  That’s probably what “Sic semper tyrannis” means. 

     The alien then continued, perhaps in order to allay my deep concerns about our future.  “But you humans CAN succeed; you have all the tools to be successful; you have proven your abilities on many occasions.  When you needed to expand your transportation you used steam to propel the boats and trains, then you discovered petroleum to run your engines.  And when it became expensive to extract useful metals from the ground, you found that you could derive rubber and plastics from that petroleum.  When you found it necessary to refrigerate perishable foods, you designed machines that would use Freon in order to make this possible.  When you needed to prevent air-crashes, you developed radar.  When you needed to fly you to a cue from the birds and artfully designed technology to develop wings.  When you needed suction cups, you looked to the gecko”. 

     The alien looked out the window and thought some more, speaking his masterfully bright mind further.  “Unlike the Pharaoh who thought he was a god and did not supply the straw for the Israelite slaves to produce bricks, the true Supreme Being has provided you with all the raw materials to succeed in your tasks.  That includes all the raw talent in your minds and your own creative spirit.  Hopefully, if you indeed apply your own creativity before you run out of petroleum, you will succeed in harnessing all that wasted energy coming out of the nuclear explosions from the sun.  The answer is staring at you every day.  The beams may be bright, but so are the people.  All the equipment and tools are there.  You have the resources.  You have the minds.  Just do it!”

     He now sounded more like a coach at halftime trying to motivate workers at a Nike factory.  His lung capacity being tested again, he continued down the road further, perhaps pressed for time just like the rest of us:  Think about the hints made available to you, like the birds-in-flight who inspired the design of flying machines and further motivated magnificent men to learn to fly them.   Think about Leonardo DaVinci and his diagrams.  Think about Galileo to investigate the moon, the planets, and their moons.  Think about all the dreams of wizards performing spectacular feats of stratospheric skill.” 

     I had to admit that this was a difficult time for me to think about anything.  Where was that pizza?   I guess the alien wasn’t thinking about that right now.  Didn’t he have faith to know that I could suffer from hunger?  He seemed to empathize with me on so many other things. 

“Think about how art and science intersect when it comes to technological design.  They are perpendicular lines which cross at the point of human creativity, in the form of application of both by designing innovative machines.  That was the start of the renaissance of enlightenment to act as a trigger the industrial revolution.  That enlightenment of beams was unfortunately misused as a trigger that set off the phallic imagination of men, inspiring them to design the canon with its iron-rich balls of fire aimed to penetrate the walls of the opposition.” 

“Enlightenment of beams?” I asked politely in order to show I was listening, holding up to the conversation with difficulty.  Perhaps he was talking about dark matter.

 “You were given hints of that, too.  Think of the venom that comes from snakes, the turtle shell used in armor and tanks, and porcupines with stabbing thorns – you get the idea.  It is something of a teleological argument that your own Thomas Aquinas used for the existence of God.”

     I did understand the argument, even in my depleted and still demoralized condition.  The birds are just one example of how God has given us hints about technology by stimulating our innovating spirit.  The clues are not only in the clouds, and the stimulation not only in the stars.  But in ourselves, that we are underlings of the sky.  Could it be possible that the stars and clouds have been put up there to develop our earthly-imagination, not just a windows desktop design?  Was it our chief occupation not only to procreate, but to achieve great things by figuring things out?  Were we charged with the task of developing our own representations of nature, as we have done in our organization of the periodic table of the elements?  Were we supposed to figure out that Earth is not in the center of the universe by using hierarchical organization structure representations the human mind seems to be so capable of understanding?

     It was that mental stimulation, those hints of nature, those subtle insinuations, those implicit guidelines together with the raw material in the Earth that always seemed to lead me to the conclusion not only that God wanted us to survive, but was ready to give us pointers in the right direction.  The hardness of diamonds, the ability of birds to fly using principles of aerodynamics, the conductivity of metals, the flammable nature of petroleum, the unique characteristic of water whose solid state of ice actually floats on top of its familiar liquid water form in lakes and polar regions – this had all seemed to me to be not only proof of God, but that the Creative force wanted us to survive.  The alien’s mention of Aquinas’ teleogical argument - or whatever he called it - made sense to me even in my depleted mental condition.  The argument was sound and consistent.  It was a theological argument from design with proof all over our Earthly realm.

     And then there were the merciful characteristics:  Distance from the sun, the Earth’s magnetic field protecting us from solar radiation, sufficient amounts of the elements in the right proportions, and vast amounts of space to protect us from comets, disasteroids, and other elements of surprise.   In addition to space, we have been given the gift of time to figure it out, for there is sufficient solar fuel in the sun to be fused into helium to last billions more years.

      I had always appreciated our unique situation is due to a number of factors:  Earth, air, fire, water, a magnetic field, a big brother planet, and time limits.  The earth contains carbon, phosphates, and all the chemicals, nutrients, and material for life and its development; the air contains the oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere, the fire from the sun provides the warmth provided the Earth is at just the right distance; water is the fluid which supports life provided the oceans neither freeze nor boil; the magnetic field protects life from solar radiation, a big brother planet such as Jupiter attracts dangerous disasteroids and diverts them from Earth.  Time limits minimize the odds when one thinks about the 5,000 history of modern technological man and the 5 billion year history of our planet.  That’s already a decrease by a factor of 1 in 1,000,000.

     Though I was getting the idea of how the human mind was able to comprehend all this, the alien continued to make his point about the development of technology:  Who would have thought only several centuries ago that something invisible could make you sick?  Who had heard of a virus or bacteria causing disease?  Who had ever heard of being able to communicate verbally across distances, or to travel in horseless carriages a century ago?  And who would have thought only several decades ago, that it would be possible to have wireless technology which enables cell phone texting, email, websites, and social networking across distances without wires between keyboards?

     These were all good points.  They were food for thought, though I was more interested in food for sustenance, which would in-turn, inspire more thought.  Anyway, I was very familiar with wireless internet, and the tools we developed such as MySpace, Facebook Twitter, Linked-In, and all the other social-networking sites.   It made me think what was next:  Human genome analysis software?  Facial recognition software to be used to greet returning customers?  Though his last question wasn’t necessarily interrogative, I felt I needed to respond in some way.  So I echoed his rhetorical question:  “Who would have thought?”

     “Indeed, who would have thought?” he volleyed back without a pause.  Look at your technology.  See ‘what hath God wrought.’  That Biblical quote, used by Samuel Morse in the first telegraph message, sums it up.  Things that were once miraculous and seemingly supernatural can become over time the new natural.  And now that you have been inspired technologically by God’s hints from nature, perhaps you will be inspired by no-contact wireless technology you have already developed to further inspire your capacities for other no-contact neural communications such as telepathy, clairvoyance, extrasensory perception, and other modes of signaling currently considered supernatural.”  

     I never thought about all these aspects of human survival, even on a full stomach.  We seem to be endowed with a plentiful world of material at our disposal.  Once we were able to figure things out, we could apply the use of metals for conducting electricity, silica in the sand to produce glass, iron in our mines for stainless steel household products, gravel for cement, carbon to derive graphite for pencils, trees for paper, epoxies for glue, liquid hydrogen and oxygen for rocket propulsion and so many more examples.  We were also endowed with geniuses such as Edison, Morse, Fulton, the Wright Brothers, and many more inventors who used a creative spirit our species seems to generate over the years.  Too bad I wasn’t considered a genius and that I was a disenfranchised, long-term unemployed person spending too much time in a state of dejection, dismay, and depression, lying on the couch out of frustration at not finding work. 

     I have often thought that whenever it seems that human civilization was out of ideas and is down to his last out, his last device, some new discovery takes place to necessitate the development of a new tool.  The same God that gave humans the  ingenuity to engineer the hammer, screw driver, drills, and other herramientos, things of the mind; the same God that gave them the ability to use disposable thumbs to turn those screws, build bridges, and generate replacement parts, could become industrious enough to revolutionize society.  The problem is that such revolutions have been bloody as chemicals have been used for terrorist explosions, while nuts and bolts have been used to build tanks, missiles, and other weaponry that have motivated humans to fight one another.

 

      Perhaps that infighting is part of God’s strategy to enable the warring sides to build up weaponry to fight invaders or technology to divert disasteroids.  From warships such as the Monitor and Merrimac, from military campaigns between enemies later turned friends, from technology developed to fight wars, scrimmages between sworn enemies often become alliances that could use the technological know-how gained from practicing war, in order to help protect our species.

     It was then that I made an astute observation that surprised even me:  “The problem of human development is that technology is misused and becomes deadly when our pride causes us to become gluttonous and greedy after the lust of gold, a one-time currency standard whose abundant supply can make us the envy of our neighbors, and which burn our wrath when we feel someone is trying to steal it from us.”

     The alien couldn’t hide his obvious excitement at my astute observation regarding almost all of the seven deadly sins.  This surprised me as well, considering I was getting hungry and a bit tired.  The pizza had not yet arrived.    

     He was glittering on and off with apparent excitement and with flashy colors which resembled luster and blood. I guess it was true that all that glitters is not gold.   “Very astute observation, human!  Bravo!  I could not have said it better myself!  You have summarised most compactly the development of war from the beams of the enlightenment to the industrial revolution down to the multiple regional and world wars over the past several centuries.   Deadly use of these raw materials leads to war and destruction, particularly when, iron is forged to produce steel for tanks, gasoline is used for incendiary bombs, lead is used for bullets, plutonium and uranium is enriched to develop nuclear weapons of mass destruction.  In general, the available material can be used in a deadly way when plow-shares are sharpened into swords.  When the weapons become fighter planes and surface-to-surface missiles, we can with uncanny prophetic clarity turn around a famous Biblical passage of royal lament:  How the (high and) mighty have perished when the weapons of war have fallen.  You see, human, even after the beating is done, the drums of war have long-term repercussions.” 

     The alien’s incredulity was obvious to me by his oscillating hues, flashing bright colors of gold and red like the 49ers football home-team jerseys.   He appeared to be astonished as if I had discovered some precious metal such as gold or uranium. 

    I guess it was my brief assessment of six of the seven deadly human ‘sins’, but I was still frustrated because I hadn’t been able to think of what the seventh lousy one truly had been.  It was beginning to get on my nerves.  I guess I was really hungry.  The alien’s colors now reminded me of the pizza that had not yet been delivered.  

     I don’t think Hemingway could have said it better, neither Ernest nor Edith.  The alien jabs were poignant but to the point.  I was enjoying his superlative compliments regarding my “astute observation”, finally having my day in the sunbeams of what seemed to be a super-intelligent being.  For a socialist, he wasn’t all bad.  During the past several minutes his colors had been red intermittently only half the time.

     The alien’s flashy colors now stopped flashing and his straight color became something of a dark blue.   I’m not sure what you would call it – I would have to consult my first grade crayon box to know the exact shade.  I’m sure that one of those sixty-four cylindrical tools of joyful coloring engagement, which were arranged in the box like fans in the stands at a sporting event, had a color within the human visible spectrum that was sufficiently close.   So far all the colors the alien had displayed were repeat throwbacks from the old school crayon box.

      All kidding aside, I was still hoping and waiting for him to become a color I had never seen anywhere before.  We humans were all getting tired of the same old red, blue, yellow, orange and green.  It would be, as we used to say growing up and innocent, altogether quite gay to have a new color on the block.  While new planets and heavenly bodies were being discovered and catalogued all the time, and the periodic table of elements was being filled in with new atoms previously unknown, new colors were not being invented, ever.  Why?  What a discovery that would be!  Such an invention would add new color and dimension to our existence and would create new available positions in the crayon box.  If there were a place available I would apply for one, as I was tired of feeling blue all these months.

     Undaunted by his own changing colors, he continued on his soapbox further like a shape-shifting politician who has struck a precious vein of a flowing and conductive material:  “You humans have all the materials ready for you to achieve success provided you take the technology to the next level before you use the older technology to kill yourselves like luddites with baseball bats destroying creativity in your violent wars.   It’s truly a race against time.  You need to develop yourselves further and not remain stuck on the previous level.  Harness your resources from the available elements the Supreme Being has given you with.  Use your own creativity, and create.  If you waste time, you will waste lives, too.”  

      He paused for a moment, then appeared to lighten up somewhat.  “What is the matter, human?  Out of energy?”  This was the first time I heard him use a contraction.  I guess he was still learning our language.

    “But now, he continued, it is time for me to leave”. 

     I was afraid that would happen.  But it had to, sooner or later. 

     I was very sorry to hear this prelude to a farewell, and I took solace that at least he didn’t plan to disappear on me suddenly like he did before.  His departure made me think again of Lewis Carroll and his poem the Walrus and the Carpenter, which I adapted for the occasion: 

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,

“To talk of many things: 

Of ceilings – floors -- and income tax –

Of girders, bolts – and beams –

And when do stars go icy cold –

And why we must have dreams.”

     The alien looked around the room as if to get one last impression of this place which he found memorable.  “I want to thank you very much for your hospitality.  I appreciate everything you have done in participating in my quest for the truth.” 

     The alien really took me by surprise.  I was about to say “Get out of town!” as a knee-jerk reaction a jerk might give to someone who just told you “I have a check for a million dollars I would like to give you.”  Never kick back a gut-reaction like “Get out of town!” cause that person might just say “OK, I‘ll leave right now.  I am sorry you don’t want me to stay another minute to write you the check and give it to you before I get out of town.  But I’ll do what you say and leave without delay.” 

     One should be careful what one says.  Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, and know when to close your own.  Don’t be a knee-jerk and never react like one, either. 

     I was sorry the alien wanted to leave.  It wasn’t good news because I was learning a lot and was pleased to know I wasn’t alone in the universe.  “Why?” I asked. I was really engrossed in his diatribe as it was a discourse I have not heard much, in fact, never.  He seemed to have good wind-capacity, as I didn’t see him take a single inhalation once while he was expressing himself at length.  At least it wasn’t a filibuster.   

     “My time is up, and my space is limited” he said in a way that made me very curious. His riddles lacked clarity, although they were clever.  To someone who has had lunch, that is. 

     “My research is complete, for now, anyway.  I have to return to my planet.  Anyway, your society has its interesting possibilities.  You humans still have time to fix your ways, but you need to first have true faith and trust in each other.  That is going to take time, and it looks like you are in a race against it, I am sorry to say.  But I think I have found the root cause of your problems: Your species really is, dumber than a tree.  If you only had true faith and trust as I have described them...”

     I was beginning to get tired and a bit sleepy, and he noticed that, apparently.  He then looked at something on a tube-like appendage that appeared to be his wrist.  Apparently he was under time constraints and had to check the time of which he was a prisoner just like us human beings.  Apparently he couldn’t manipulate it, and so perhaps he didn’t want to miss the scheduled worm-hole he had used to travel.  

     “We on Zatox generally believe that that your science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke had it right when he argued against space travel, whether in 2001 or anytime before you end your childish ways.  He admonished your species most eloquently, stating figuratively that the stars are not for man.  We on Zatox agree with that earthling’s assessment, but hope you will keep up your spirit of imagination.  That is your only escape, your only thrust that will provide you not only with the velocity to cross chasms of vast space, but the wisdom that your renaissance leaders were able to use their artistic talents to design, even if only on paper, instruments of travel.  You can have a bright future if you follow in the spirit of those humans that utilised the beams of your enlightenment period, to shed light on creativity, which perhaps was the purpose of the creation of both Zatoccians and Earthlings…”     

     I guess that made sense.  Creative design is the intersection of art and science.  In the meantime we humans were distracted with the acquisition of wealth.  I, one of them, was obsessed not with making sense of things, but rather cents from things – and even better, making dollars from things, such as my time and talents. 

    Again he glanced at his ‘wrist’ watch, getting ready for his departure.  I couldn’t help but comment:  “If you can travel across such vast distances, can you travel in time as well?”

     He stopped, frozen in his tracks like the statue he had been previously.  Only his eyes moved, up and down, then he returned to his previous demeanor.  “For now, human, you should just live.  For today, you see.  This you must do for tomorrow and your descendants, your future judges.”

     That cryptic response seemed the strangest thing he had said to me.  Particularly the “today, you see” part.  He said this with something of a weird accent that sounded part Spanish and part Yiddish.  I knew that the Spanish translation of “today you see” was “Hoy ve” which in Yiddish was an exclamation that defies translation anywhere in the universe.  It was what Einstein said when he heard that the Enola Gay dropped a Little Boy bomb on Hiroshima. 

    The alien’s nuclear comments were followed by a pause that was so pregnant it could have given birth to an entire generation of travelers to the stars.  His response seemed to imply there was no way to change history.  It was expressed rather poetically and with artful ambiguity.  As such, it was non-committal response which was as imposingly assertive as a closed and finite universe would be, one beyond which lie earthy dreams that surpass the ultimate.

     So, I suppose his response meant that time travel is a concept doomed to failure, and therefore isn’t an option for humanity.  The idea to slide across the fourth dimension was as hopeless as the development hover-board, which never made it out of our past future perfect and into our return to this timeline back to the future of 2015.  It’s a good thing I didn’t place a bet on the development of hover-boards back in the 80’s.  A Mets wager with one out away from elimination would have been a better bet than the hover-board thirty years.  Such a bet would cause the wealthiest of persons to lose any fortunes they had. 

     I guess that sliding and gliding just wasn’t – and isn’t - in our stars, whoever is at fault.  And since the stars never really were for man, and since we can’t travel backwards to the past like Hollywood does and has done all the time, what future does mankind have?

     Tired clichés aside, it’s probably true that the greatest gift of all is the here and now.  For there’s no time like the present; whatever will be, will be:  The rest…is history.

     And I guess that there’s no present like the time we have.  That is, the time to make things right   Perhaps knowledge of other beings could help us in our mission to set things straight.  That knowledge could incentivize humans to explore territory over rainbows where life emanates its radiant beaming energy.  Humans should observe minds over matter and energy, though both matter. 

    “…Anyway,” he continued, reminding me of his lingering presence, “Again I want to personally thank you for the resources you have offered, for the tea, and for the frank and honest answers you have offered.  I wish you every bit of luck in your job search.” 

     I was familiar with that last sentence, and it seemed like an abrupt return to reality. He sounded like an HR representative at the end of a rejection email after stating that the job has been filled, or that they want to continue the search for someone whose talents most closely align with those for which they are looking.

    I hated goodbyes.  I never knew what was “good” about some of them.  I found hellos much more positive, and didn’t understand why they included “hell”.   Of course, that would depend on the greetee.  Too many guests are not considered welcome, I guess.  Perhaps every hello has a goodbye attached to it, just like for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Another worthy tribute to Groucho Marx’s ballad “Hello, I must be going, I cannot stay I came to say I should be going…”

    Nevertheless, I did feel grateful that he had come and brightened up my life even if he was a different sort of Marxist with suspicious intentions.  I had been honored to be this curious extraterrestrial creature’s terrestrial teacher.   He had inadvertently endowed me with optimism that I had been lacking all these months.  Then I asked, as if on cue like in so many drama movies that included benevolent interplanetary visitors:  “Will I ever see you again?”

     His response was worded sarcastically, but I understood he didn’t mean it to be.  I understood his tone when he responded, “In your dreams.”

     Then he thought again for a moment, seeing that his response carried unintended implied sarcasm.  So he said.  “Live long, and may my thoughts be with you,” he said, sounding like combination between a Vulcan, a Jedi knight, and George Burns portraying God.   Then he continued unexpectedly:  “For your thoughts will always be with me”.

    That sounded strange.  Perhaps one of us was really dreaming.  He emphasized the part “with me” in such a way as to make me curious.   He may have been emphasizing the Hebrew translation of “with me”, which ironically was a very close phonetic sound of “E.T.”

    The alien’s cryptic responses about whether our paths would cross again didn’t quite satisfy my curiosity.  I wanted to know if our planet would be visited by his “people”.  Would there ever come a day when we as a society - and not just as individuals like me – would be contacted by them?  Could their outer space be my-space and the space of other humans too?  Could our peoples become Facebook-like friends linked in some social network across the galaxies?   And if there were a network such as the United Federation of Planets, could we join it?  Was there an application process?  I didn’t know how to find that out.

     So I asked point-blank:  “When can you visit our planet more formally and let all of us humans know about you?”

     “Why would I do that?”

     “In order to form a more perfect union of the minds and exchange of information.” 

     I then thought to myself of all the social changes that have taken place as a result of statements like that previous one, particularly the first octet.  I guess you have to byte before you can chew.  And like any preamble, you have to crawl before you can walk. 

     “What is wrong with the information exchange you and I had for the last several hours?” he asked somewhat surprised.  “I thought we learned much from each other.  I, for one, am very appreciative of your insight into the whys of your woes of humanity.  What was wrong?”

     “Nothing was wrong.  It was a close encounter of the best kind.  But why not make it public?”

 

     “Again, why should we do that?” the alien asked. 

     I was thinking of an answer that would address his resistance to the invitation.  I wasn’t expecting members of his alien race to serve man; nor was I expecting to become an ingredient in their soup.  All I wanted was what the rest of us had come to expect:  Some official acknowledgement that we were not alone.  After some more thought on the issue, I explained to the alien: 

     “There are so many intellectual humans who would love to meet with you, your species, and your interstellar friends.  It’s not enough to estimate the possibility of intelligent life.  We want to experience it.  We want to forge extraterrestrial friendships with races like yours.”

     Without hesitation, the alien rebounded:  “So why do not you PREPARE yourselves for that?  Make yourselves presentable!”

     That was an interesting suggestion, one I wasn’t anticipating.  I thought we as a species WERE presentable, at least for the present, even if we didn’t all own expensive clothing.  Perhaps he was referring to preparations of the more intellectual type.   I then responded in our defense: 

     “We humans have already been preparing.  We have been ready to present ourselves for quite some time.  We have been sending signals out to you on an hourly basis.  We have been transmitting prime numbers out into space. We even sent a craft called Voyager with a golden record of our existence.” 

     “Oh, we know all about your record.  But it stands in opposition to your historical one which we have on file together with all your other deeds.  Regarding the grooved etchings from the golden record attached to your Voyager spacecraft, we grabbed it and examined it, and before returning it back to the craft we were able to engrave replications of it.  We then distributed copies of your hit-record to our scientists in a number of libraries.  It tells a lot about your existence, but unfortunately just the good parts - the exclusively positive points.   That is all we got from your groovy record.  But when we compared the information with our observations we found a completely different record than the one you sent out.”

     “What do you mean?”

     “The disk is more descriptive of what many of your philosophers would have your planet to be.   We see your record as incomplete and inaccurate.  We have concluded that it is nothing more than political propaganda, like practically everything else with you humans.  That golden record is not only untruthful.  It is altogether deceitful.  It epitomizes your narcissistic self-worshiping LIKED adoration just like your golden calf.”

     I never thought of that golden connection.  Though he connected two disparate golden dots of record and calf, I couldn’t help feeling my dismay.  Our scientists and philosophers worked so hard on that disk, believing that it is steeped in human morality.  They would have been demoralized by this assertion.  Maybe it’s a good thing they never met this alien.

     I now felt I had to make a plea on behalf of our wholesomely well-minded scientists and philosophers.  I believed them to be genuinely enlightened, and I felt sorry for these human truth-seekers whom the alien deemed as a bit misguided and deluded. 

     So, once again I argued in our defense:  “What about all the ‘Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence’ programs, the SETI program in which our radio astronomers search for life among the stars?  That includes life on your planet.”

     “We are aware of SETI.  We know that you spend many resources to search for us.  But no matter what mixed signals you are sending across multiple frequencies, and no matter how many prime numbers you send to us ad-infinitum, I am sorry to say that we will not be making contact with your government and planet as a whole any time soon.  Of this I must say I am sorry because I know how important contact is to you.  We know how hard you have been trying to reach us.”

     I was glad he at least realized how important extraterrestrial contact is.  To paraphrase an old beer commercial, “In the dull and commonplace occurrence of day-to-day living one thing stands out as a completely unique experience”.  That thing would be extraterrestrial contact.  It’s probably important to us because we’re so bored with each other, and we need something different to stand out in contrast to that common place where we commoners live.

 

     “So for all intents and purposes,” I summarized, “despite all the evidence compiled from our radio-telescopes, the Hubble telescope and astronomical data collected from our advanced technology and our discoveries of new goldilocks type planets, we are as good as alone in the galaxy.  Is this an accurate assessment?” 

     This made the alien think hard, like he was looking for something to say in order to console me.  He looked around the room as if to get an idea from the furniture of what to say next.  He seemed at a loss.  I gave him time to think, and finally he responded:

     “As a race, you humans may feel lonely.  But you are not alone.  Not in the galaxy and not in the universe.  You should know that we receive your signals through special subspace technology and process the information very quickly.”

     His response reminded me of the feeling I had when I would email my résumé to a prospective employer.  Often I would get an email back, but it was a cookie-cutter form of receipt by email.  No engagement followed.

     The alien then turned an olive-green tint, and gave me a good hard look.

      “Have you ever thought that both the stars and clouds have been put up there to develop and stimulate your imagination, not just a windows desktop design?   Have not you considered that your task on this planet is to figure things out and organize your thought with conventions such as your periodic table of the elements?   True, your minds are skewed to think a certain way that places Earth in center of the universe, but you have been endowed with the capacity to think outside the box, or in this case outside your sphere of influence.  But your ability to categorize and organize things in a hierarchical manner has helped you simplify your perceptions so that you can understand them with your human minds.  It may be in many cases oversimplification, but it is a start.”

     I was surprised he said that.  I thought he was going to emphasize an observation about our people, that they don’t seem to just sit and think anymore.  They don’t just stare at the clouds and see the changing forms.  I myself have observed that amongst my own people there’s just very little, if any, free thought these days.   People have become too attached to their electronic devices, which they cannot seem to leave alone.  Their phone devices seem to own them rather than vice-versa.  Too many people are being left to their own devices which they, in fact, own and should control.

     Individuality, independence, ingenuity, and everything else “I” related all seem to have been under attack by the vices of electronic devices.  It’s almost as if an alien pod invasion of body snatchers has taken place, replacing peoples’ mind’s eye with i-pods and i-pads, and their once-thinking heads to i-phones attached to headphones connected with peoples’ ears and the atrophying grey matter in-between. 

     At this point, the alien looked down as if regretting the tough talk he had issued.  His color became something of an olive-green, as if he were to extend a branch from that genre of tree.  He then continued with a more reconciliatory tone, rather solemnly and somberly: 

 

     “We have studied your species very carefully, human.  Our findings have confirmed our original hypothesis that we and the other thousands of our federated alliance of friendly planets had initially proposed.  Consequently, we have judged you to be unworthy of our interstellar friendship.  It is true that we have surmised and judged many other species in the same way, so in that respect you are not alone.  Just like them, you have not met the minimum requirements for interplanetary engagement.”

     I never knew the rules of engagement were so stringent.  I guess that means our interplanetary social calendar will have to remain open for a while.  No meetings of the minds of the interstellar social circuit.  This was quite a slap.  It was an affront to our frontal lobes we had held in such high esteem.  None of our imaginative intellectuals on Earth had ever imagined such a rejection, something of a virtual barrier to entry into the social club of intelligent life forms.  It again reminded me of the job search barriers I had been bumping into.  I decided put the alien on the defensive in a somewhat accusatory tone:  “If we are so unworthy of interplanetary contact, why did YOU come here today?  Why did they send YOU?” 

     “I drew the shortest straw.  But do not feel bad.  This visit was enlightening and I appreciate your frankness.  It supports the pattern of information that we have been noticing for some time now.  As it turns out, the information you have provided is consistent with that of the other humans we have researched.”

     “So you HAVE made contact.”

     “Yes, we have.  But you are the first human whose memory we have not erased.  We are interested in what you will do with the memory.  We are fairly certain that you will either be ignored or called insane.”

     Well THAT seemed to make sense.  I didn’t want him to go, and so I had to resort to small talk:

     “So do you come here often?  I mean our planet.  Or are you so disenchanted with us that you don’t really want to visit us?  Is that why none of the intelligent beings in your network has ever visited us?”

     “Oh, we visit you ALL THE TIME.  We are fascinated with your oceans, and your terrestrial flora and fauna.   We just have not made official contact with your excessively arrogant species and will probably not be making any such contact in the foreseeable future.   As a group, Homo Sapiens are far too primitive to be interesting.  We study earth life particularly under your vast oceans because we find the diversity most fascinating.  But we study it because of our curiosity about nature, not as a search for intelligent life.  And even if we were looking, we would not see in your homo-sapiens species even a hint of stable intelligence.”

     I found use of the word “stable” rather compelling.  Maybe we were intelligent, but not consistent in that intelligence.  We were perhaps unpredictable.  At least his species appreciated our terrific terrestrial flora and fauna.

     “So, are you saying that we humans are NOT worth engaging?”

     “As the species which holds dominion over all the others, you are seen by us as too stupid and shortsighted.  You are too proud, you are insignificant, and you are boring.  You are out of touch with reality.  And everything you do is political.  Your religion is political.  Your science is political.  Even your political science is too political and not so scientific.  So, to answer your question, I have to say that we find you unworthy of engagement.  That is our judgment.”

     I was hoping for a more lenient sentence.  This one seemed like a life-sentence or perhaps a death-sentence, and a rather harsh one at that.  I would have liked to have an opportunity to appeal the verdict.  But at least he didn’t end it in a preposition or a proposition I could never agree with.  That would have been an anti-climax to his final judgment and concluding sentence.

     Thinking more about the word “stable”, I tried to apply it to my appeal to the judgment:  “But many of us humans are aware of the importance of treating animals in a humane way.  We try not to be cruel to animals.”

     “Some of you indeed make that attempt.  But too many of you kill animals with no regret.  You do so for the sport or for the fun of it.  Even when you are not killing off a whole species in the ultimate evil act of species-cide, you are able to kill animals with no remorse.  You may do so for food, or glue, or sport, or just for the ‘fun’ of it.  Yet you do not consider killing animals as something grave.  Could you tell me why you are so insensitive to animal life?”

 

     The alien obviously didn’t find my appeal too appealing.  I had to think for a moment about why killing animals wasn’t a crime as severe as homicide.  I guess we were a species of animated animosity.  I thought of the line from the movie Ten Commandments:  ‘We are not animals; we are men, made in the image of God’. 

     All I could think of saying was:  “Maybe because….because…because….animals just aren’t as intelligent as people.”

     The alien then changed back to a dark yellow.  He obviously was taken aback by my affront concerning animal intelligence.  “So is it about intelligence?  You think humans are more intelligent than other species, so there is no nominally animal equivalent for the capital crime of homicide? ” 

     Now THERE was an issue we humans were still wrestling with.  Some of us define human beings as part of the animal kingdom, an animated mammal called “homo sapiens”.  Others use the term “animal” to refer only to those animated anonymous animals, those non-human earthlings, claiming that humans are special creatures created by God in His Own Image.  This definitive dispute of definition was at the core of much clamorous debate on Earth.

     The alien continued:  “Think for example of the number of Panthera Tigris, or what you simply call ‘Tigers’.  There are less than four-thousand of them in the wild, yet there are billions of human beings.  Which one do you say is more valuable?  What qualifies as value, anyway?  Rareness or what you call ‘intelligence’?

     I never really thought of that.  I guess tigers have a value like v-money, while humans could be likened to political p-money:  The former is more precious and hard to come by, while the latter is self-righteous about itself, hyping its value because it thinks its intelligence gives it some sort of esoteric value.   Does the numeric success of our species cheapen it? 

     And then more questions were triggered by the tiger example:  Are humans merely another classification of mammal?  Just another animal?  Or are we disconnected outsiders from the political realm like CEOs or politicians?  Who am I to judge?  I am just another human.  Neither you nor I nor anyone else is in a position to judge this question.

     Our prejudice goes beyond our ability to judge ourselves.  We are skewed in our thinking about the nature of our universe and how things really are.  That’s because the human mind thinks a certain way and we humans are too structured within the thinking methodology of our limited human cerebral cortexes.  We think in terms of sets and subsets, of compartments and departments, of hierarchies, of divisions, and subgroups.  We think this way not only in organizational structure whether that organization is military or corporate or governmental.  We view the universe in the same way:  Moons group around planets, which group around stars, whose solar systems group into clusters, which make up the galaxies, which are in turn part of great walls or galaxy filaments of cosmic threadlike complexities that seem to comprise the universe. 

     It’s easy to forget that we are prejudiced by our perception patterns and are bounded and limited by this type of perception.  Our perceptions are biased – there simply isn’t such a thing as “absolute truth” that we can perceive.  There are many examples of the way the human mind maps logic.  Trickle-down economics, gods with human qualities, anthropomorphic representations, and grouping of numbers into base ten:   These are all examples of our limited representation abilities.  If we were to come into contact with intelligent extraterrestrial life forms, how could we be able to communicate if our thought patters were different?  How would we be able to relate to each other?  All of the aliens on Star Trek spoke lines from scripts written by humans, and they were all human, too.  In our first encounter with such life, we would have to overcome more than just translation of languages.  We would have to be able to deal with these conceptual differences in order to reach an understanding.  We have never done this before, and I am not sure how we would be able to succeed in overcoming these barriers to comprehension patterns when the time comes.  Otherwise neither we nor the aliens would be able to connect the stellar dots across space and time. 

     “I guess that’s right,” I answered, at this point having already forgotten the question.  My own brain at that point seemed too inadequate to sense what was coming next…

     “So you humans are suggesting that if a being of intelligence is not human, it has no soul simply because it has a different type of intelligence?  Would you say that such a level of non-human intelligence is necessarily inferior?  Are you saying animals have no soul?  No feeling or suffering?  No self-awareness?  Are you saying that these are exclusively the domain of the dominant species you call ‘Homo Sapiens’?”

     When he put it that way, I found myself dumbfounded - a rather lost and dumb-founded animal of the human kind.  I didn’t know the answer.  I guess I wasn’t a knowing human, not a representative ‘Homo Sapiens’.  Not very complimentary for someone of my species with an arrogant but advanced cerebral cortex. 

     “I suppose that is the way we humans comprehend things,” I said in response to this interrogating inquisitor, whose line of questioning seemed remnant of Satan the prosecutor when building his case against Job.  The noose was tightening.  Fortunately, it was only a figurative noose, but such a rope of reproach could quite possibly leave us humans hanging in an existence of stellar solitude. 

     “Now, THAT is the very reason we see your intelligence as unstable.  Some of you may be kind to horses, to dogs, to cats, to birds, and even to serpents in Eden.  But the very fact that you use your INTELLIGENCE as an arrogant justification for killing other earthlings, leads us to the conclusion that you are unworthy of our friendship and mutual engagement.”  

     “Not even for a quick hello?”

     “I am afraid not.  You are both obnoxious and noxious.  We do not want to become associated with species like yours.  You think you are intelligent, yet you use your intelligence as an excuse to rationalize your brutality.  Murder seems acceptable if it is against non-humans.  The only murder you condemn is homicide, and even THAT you engage very often on a genocidal scale.  Our species have nothing in common.  That is why we are not interested in developing a friendship with you.  We have nothing in common.  You do not seem ready to learn from us and we certainly do not see any redeeming qualities in you from which we Zatoccians can learn.”

     I guess we have been throwing too many stones in the glass houses where we live.  People who live in ivory towers should keep their tusks to themselves.   Those Nimrods among us who build towering infernos to the sky should first make sure there are higher water towers to enable sufficient pressure to hydrate the hanging gardens of Babylon and provide water flow for flowers without diverting that flow to the gates of Eden.  Without the water towers, Bernoulli’s Principle of fluid dynamics would dictate a need to build a colossal pump that even the Roman engineers and builders of aqueducts couldn’t have imagined.  It would be such a crying shame that would cause the waters of Babylon to increase in salinity as the tears of the exiles would be necessary to drive the flow.  

     So much for interstellar student-exchange programs.  “Aren’t we at least interesting enough for you to contact?” I asked.

     “Interesting?  Oh, yes you are.  We find your biology and development very interesting.  It is your personality we find rather drab and commonplace.   From a behavioural standpoint you are typical of a planet in adolescent turmoil, an average species in development whose intelligence has not reached fruition.   You have issues with so many things.”

     The alien paused for a moment, taking note of my dissonance in response to his disses.

     “But do not be upset,” continued the alien in a conciliatory tone.  “As I told you before, yours is not the only unqualified species.  We see so many planets with beings like you all the time:  Many have species that only THINK they are intelligent, just like you do.  But in fact, these pseudo-intellectual species have a streak of savagery in them just like you that cause them to kill each other.  We do not see any sense in trying to reach out to you until you become true to yourselves.    The truth is that there are many other more interesting planets to visit.  So the paradox is, you are definitely NOT alone.  There are many species we have rejected.  You are definitely not alone in your self-righteous mediocrity.  Though you are lonely, you have plenty of company.”

     That was quite a paradox.  We were not alone in our solitude.  We had lots of company with other rejects and outcasts from the stellar social scene, but the rejection was nonetheless disappointing.  The alien noticed I was uncomfortable.  He then asked somewhat delicately as though he were walking on eggshells: 

     “Are you all right?  Should I stop?  I am sorry if the truth is hard to handle.”

     He had now taken up the role of Jack Nicholson.  But I decided that I WAS able to handle the truth.  So I urged him on, saying “Please, go ahead.” 

     “All right, as you wish.  I did not want to end our conversation this way, but you do seem open to hearing the truth, and that is the first step in true intelligence.  Are you absolutely sure you want to hear the truth as we have seen and discussed it? 

     “Yes.  I would like to hear what you have to say.  It seems I may not get another chance.”

     “As you wish.  But please stop me if this gets too distressing for you.  I promised you at the beginning of our conversation that I would not cause you any pain.  That was my understanding in our agreement.  I did warn you that there might be some poking for the truth, and cutting and piercing through mantles of uncertainty.  I admonished you that I would not be able to guarantee that some of the discussion will not cause some sort of mental anguish or heartache, because the subject matter is, after all, human related.”

     Now I knew I had a heart, because it was breaking.  “Please proceed”, I requested.

     “Very well,” he continued.  “You may be surprised to find out that we have indeed been monitoring your broadcasts, even though they have rarely been about the truth.  The paradox is that that you actually DO have some bright people enlightened by the possibilities out there.  But they are surrounded by dark matter keeping your civilization from expanding your universe of understanding.  There are plenty of planets out there with intelligent life that are more worth our while.”

     “So you have been monitoring our broadcasts.  But why haven’t you told us that?  Why haven’t you made yourselves known?  Why do you always have to be like the man behind the curtain?

     This wizard of odd seemed to be thinking over the question like someone who calculates the temperature of fermenting yeast for the production of lagers and ales.  He was in deep contemplation, mentally preoccupied and as busy as the man behind the curtain in his Emerald City chamber with all the gauges and smoke and mirrors. 

     “A very good question, human.  As I said, we actually HAVE visited you many times.  There has not been any moment that you were NOT being investigated.  But we made sure that you would not be able to see us, since you would have been unable to recognize the very intelligence you claim to be looking for.  You would not be able to spot it even if you saw it up close.  Despite your telescope and radio searches you are too detached from reality and your surroundings to be considered intelligent by our standards.”

     What a mouthful!  I still couldn’t get over the rejection even though I should have been used to it by now. We humans thought of ourselves as being gracious beings, always striving to be politically correct.  But all too often our incorrigibly obnoxious nature proved our inadequacy at dealing with the truth, which for the moment I was having trouble handling.  Now I couldn’t resist asking him:  “What would make us worthy of your friendship?”

     “Are you sure you are ready to hear more?  There is not much you can do as an individual about the human condition.  Not right now, anyway.”

     “Yes.  Please tell me more.” 

     “All right, but remember: You asked for it.  As I said, we see your species as savage beasts with the genes of marauders running through your bloody bellicose veins.  We cannot expect such a race of maligned sadists who have performed unthinkably ruthless atrocities over your recent history to change overnight.  Only recently you were sending your fellow humans to concentration camps, and to death camps where they would be worked to death.  You would torture your enemy with savage cruelty and perform acts of brutal sadism on each other.  You would conduct “witch-hunts” of more evil than anything the Devil would have contrived.  Your sagacity is exceeded only by your savagery, and you try to find justice for the victims by punishing THEM even more.”

     Well, THAT was something unexpected.  “What do you mean?”  I asked.

      “Simply that, to paraphrase one of your expressions:  ‘From the victims come the spoils’.”

      “You mean:  ‘To the victor go the spoils’.”   I felt I had to correct the alien on this one.

      “No, human.  I believe that I said it right.  Some victims have their lives spoiled by victors who pillage the village.”

     The alien then turned a pale blue color.  Maybe that indicated an intention to tell me something as profound as a contrivance of the Devil.  

      “When a woman is assaulted and raped in some parts of your world,” he continued, “your primitive tribes chastise the victim rather than console her.  And all in the name of family honor, of tribal pride. Instead of consoling the rape victims and caring for their recovery, you disown them, abuse them emotionally, and even assault them mercilessly.  And without a quality of mercy to season justice, the earthly power of humanity ceases to show. This behaviour is an abomination of everything intelligent life holds dear.  As long as you continue to attack rape victims in order to save family honor, you are savage beasts who are light-years away from the enlightened intelligence we Zatoccians are seeking out in friendships.”

      “But that’s only some tribes in other parts of the world.  Our enlightened organized civilizations don’t do that, at least not in recent history.”

     The alien’s pale blue turned a bit darker.  “I am sorry to tell you, human, that it has happened in your very recent history but on a wider, more national scale.  Only recently your species had ganged up on victims of genocide in order to eradicate them.  Widows and orphans had been forced to fight for their lives.   Sometimes the victims succeed in their struggle for survival and independence.  Even after the victims succeeded in their quest for survival, the story had not ended there.  The nations of the world ganged up on them like in a schoolyard.  The many who wanted to eradicate the few used the world forum of the family of nations to condemn the survivor-victims of such fledgling nations.  The widows and orphans are condemned for just trying to regain sustenance and consistency in their lives. They are just like rape victims who are condemned and chastised by the tribe.  And when the children who are orphans-of-war grow up, they often become aggressive batterers themselves, when they otherwise would have been peaceful.    How can you justify accusing and assaulting innocent victims of war?”

     This time I knew what he was talking about.  All too often a threat of being pushed into the sea follows a great fire.  “But we weren’t ALL like that,” I said, coming to the defense of humanity.  There were people and there were nations that behaved with sympathy and respect, coming to the aid of those fledgling nations.  Wasn’t the United States of America helpful for the victims with all the financial aid and political support all those years?”

      “This is true,” he said.  “Some of your nations were sympathetic.  But we on Zatox judge ALL of you, not just some of you.”

      “Why can’t you judge us individually, or as nations?  Hasn’t the United States of America been merciful in these types of crises?”

     I felt like the pupil in school who was forced to undergo collective punishment together with the entire class simply because that class contained a few bad eggs.  It was unfair for the teacher to do that.  It reminded me of how my buddy Emmett Odom condemned the entire class of politicians as evildoers of Satan.  But EO didn’t care that he was sounding like a bloody revolutionary with his bourgeoisie banter against politicians; he wouldn’t give a Jean-Paul Marat’s ass if he was a friend of the people some of time or those whom he insisted were getting fooled all the time.  I felt that judgment too harsh as well.  If I ever catch up with Emmett I must tell him this – if he promises not to inflict me with his own verbal reign of terror.  EO was a good Joe at heart, just a bit of a yoyo with his moody ups and downs.

      “Not always.  Even if that were true, your country seems now to be in a struggle against political corruption.  This is not just our opinion:  The majority of your own people feel that way.  We have noticed that most of them believe that the republic-turned-empire is going the wrong direction.  And for the first time ever, they feel that a succeeding generation will not be succeeding like their parents had done.  Their standard-of-living is expected to be lower than that of the preceding generation.  You seem to be losing your competitive advantage, and that comes directly from the long-term unemployment culture your country and other democracies have adhered to.  In short, you are going backwards.   You do not seem to have the international influence you once had to seek justice for the victims, and you are comfortably complacent and compliant with a new world order of slavery, human trafficking, and child pornography.”

     His words were piercing.  But somehow they made sense and hit home, somewhere in between the pit-stops of Daytona and the pot-stops of Colorado.  Nevertheless, I felt I had to protest:

      “But despite all this, we are still the most advanced country, a light to the nations.  We are more enlightened than the other nations.”

      “Perhaps because you are blinded to what is really going on.  Maybe you are too “enlightened” and need to dim the lights to suit both your intelligence and blind ignorance.  You still see yourselves as a superpower but behave like the sun that can see no shadows.  After so many years, you are finally convinced by Copernicus’ lethal assertion that the whole solar system does not revolve around you, but your self-centered attitude has made you selfish and short-sighted.  The great-society you once boasted is changing into an oligarchy where very few individuals have money and the vast majority of people are becoming poorer.  That oligarchy is gradually evolving into a feudal type of system where the little people do not count.”

      “What do you think we should do?” I asked.

      “Take heed from some of your Books of Wisdom.  For the royalty that is developing in America is similar to the kingdoms of Israel and Judea.  The pattern is playing itself out in your America, too, as the spirit of good-will is overtaken by a mentality of celebrity-elites which include the political nobility.  True, you may not have a king that dominates the wealth but you do have a burgeoning oligarchy class that resembles an exclusive class of regal nobility very closely.  It is that class of elites that forms family dynasties, those that usurp the welfare of the people and the wealth of nations.”

     I found it interesting that the alien mentioned “Wealth of Nations.”  It seemed to make sense that Adam Smith’s ideas of labor markets made sense only when those markets were free to move unfettered by political interference.  Otherwise, they were altogether inappropriate.  Many of us have noticed this type of corruption over the years.  It ties together with the media that receives political campaign contribution money to advertise unscrupulous attack ads.  The alien paused for a moment as I put all this to thought.

     It’s not that society is evil; it just seems at times to be going stupid.  It is going the way of the Biblical kingdoms.  It you were to read the books of Kings and replace the word “evil” with “stupid”, you would find repeated passages where the king or the people did that which was stupid in the eyes of the Lord, after having learned an important lesson on faith and trust.  Such word substitution may be considered irreverent, but it could serve to explain the decline of elitist societies particularly in where the crucifying populace is too stupid to know that which they do.

      “But we don’t have a king here,” I found myself protesting.  I remembered God’s warning when the Israelites begged Samuel the Prophet to appoint them a king to rule over them.  The admonition was disturbing, one in which God warned Samuel in great detail about the dire consequences of having a king and a noble royal dynasty.  A monarch will take their children as slave-servants, and when the subjects of the kingdom cry out in agony, no One will answer, as both voices and light fall into a black hole where any enlightened thought gets sucked up by the dark greedy majesty.  The warning about corrupt elite from the book of Samuel still continues to echo through time, as Caesars, Czars, and Kaisers proved through the centuries.  Unfortunately royal corruption did not end with them. 

     It’s no wonder wealthy people are treated like emperors and eventually gods.  They have the power over life and death, and are the only ones who can afford to hire hit-men.  Their voices are heard beyond the vote, so the people have had to be careful what they say.  They may just become emperor like Caesar who could give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down or some other rule-of-thumb that could mean life or death or something in-between.  Other rules of thumb, relating to hitch-hiking, pilot authorized takeoffs or thumbtacks taxation don’t seem as risky.

      “Maybe you do not have a king,” the alien countered, “but you are gradually developing an elitist class.  That demoralizes the populace.  As many hard-working people are sinking deeper into poverty, they are less motivated to perform their jobs effectively.   Their faith and trust in government falls.  The quality of both life and mercy are being strained beyond recognition.  It is like what happened to the Roman Republic.  Actually, the moral deterioration and the resulting demoralization that is taking place to both your public and your republic should scare you.”

     Now I was really becoming scared.  More than any fear of alien invasion ever did.  On our planet, when republics become empires, the people suffer.  This has been proven empirically.  Just as there can be no republic without the public, there can be no civilization without civility.   It’s all about the people.  Remember us?  Oui, il s’agit du peuple.  In all républiques and for all pueblos.  I admit that at times I feared for the future of our republic.  That the golden valley I once saw below me could become one of a shadow of death we could someday be walking through.  Yea, I was finding it difficult not to fear evil.  

     “From our observations of Zatox, we have noticed that your elite rarely care about the people.  As the masses coalesce around the center of the black hole, the hole starts to ensnare all the beams of light.  That is what happens with a “noblesse oblige” attitude.  Eventually it obliges the poor to cater to the wealthy nobility.  It is very costly and dangerous to develop a magna carta that can speak for the people once that nobility sees its majesty being threated.  All this is a pattern that continues in the books of Kings down to the centuries leading to the division of the monarchy, a collapse of each, and the exile of both peoples.”

      “At least there’s time to do something about it.”

      “Time can be an illusion, human.  You see, the fall from graceful power is slow and unperceivable, just like a tree growing in the forest.  It is taking place gradually but is virtually unnoticed and impervious to you.  In the same manner, society can fall gradually and in stages.   By the time the noble elite take over and the citizens become denizens who gradually are further downgraded to status of subjects to the kingdom and objects for taxation to pay for their wealth, it will be too late for your once-precious republic.  They become subjects of the nobility and are at their mercy in times of both war and peace.  As with other developing societies such as yours, it becomes very difficult to dissolve the political bands which tie you to that center of mass and prevent any separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them.”

     I was glad we were not alone and that there were other developing societies that were not ready for prime time visits from aliens.  Our lack of maturity meant that we were not alone, despite our loneliness for companionship.

     The alien resumed his packing, continuing to get his things together, testing his equipment.  He noticed I was still stunned and was staring at him for more words of wisdom.

     So he then came out with what seemed to be his registered verdict on the human condition as it relates to alien engagement:  “Please do not be hurt by what I have said, human.  But it is important to know the truth.  For you, this is a lesson for the ages.  For us, it is a warning from our own sages:  Stay away from the humans and avoid exposure to that element.

     Wow.  I now began to understand the alien’s race was not eager to engage our human species planet.  Apparently he already understood humans better than we did ourselves. 

      “But we are getting better.” I argued, “We are ahead of where we were centuries ago.  We now have developed a legal system and have perfected a set of morals.  We are continuing to try to improve our morality by ongoing trial and error.  We also have learned to get along with each other.  Look at the cooperative venture of the International Space Station.”

      “This is true.  But centuries of atrocity cannot be overcome that quickly.  Not overnight.  You are still too savage today.   You humans seem to insist on generating poor classes of people.”

      “Generating poor classes of people?”

      “Yes.  Why haven’t you noticed this?  On one hand you pay your politicians and CEO’s very well and on the other hand the people who do the actual back-breaking work that adds value get paid the minimum wage.  And you yourself are an example of someone who has college degrees but is considered overqualified for many job positions.  As a long-term unemployed college graduate, you should understand this.”

     And I did understand it.

      “But the problem is also religion-based,” he continued without pause.  He was probably going to extend the argument entailing the interaction between human reproductive organs and organized religion.  “On one hand you do not tolerate abortion, but on the other hand you tolerate poverty quite well.  On one hand you are against contraception and on the other hand are unable to feed and house the millions of homeless children.  Your population continues to grow, but you aren’t aware of their suffering.”

     I felt a little burned out and felt a need to rest a little, or perhaps a double rest, because I wasn’t sure what all these hands meant.  Maybe my brain needed to undergo some mitosis to double its thinking ability.   The alien’s mention of hands could have been merely another hint that when one hand washes the other, the two together attain the power to endure and ensure the day-to-day stability we all need on our Earthly way to becoming a civil society.  And when that path is taken in a round trip twice, perhaps the fate of humanity will become sealed tight with success like a tightly held promise on the Day of Atonement to be inscribed in the Book of Life.   Unlike the cryptic “mine mine to qel Persia” message deciphered by Daniel, today the handwriting on the wall is much more legible, and the letters tell the story.  

     On the other hand, this alien seemed to have more than two.  Though he wasn’t too much of an octopus or even a squid, he might have been mistaken by even the most experienced taxonomist for a close relative of head-footed cephalopod. 

      “Why do you insist,” he persisted “on raising multitudes of poor people without preparing them with education and employment?  Why are you unable to deploy them?  And why do you confuse education with political propaganda?  Are you humans intent on raising a generation of ‘les miserables’ impoverished drones like I-robots?  Are you trying to build a working class of drones?  Of slave-type low wage earners?” 

     Now he REALLY sounded like a socialist.  But just because it seemed like he was making inferences to organizing working people into labor unions.  That alone didn’t qualify him to be classified a Marxist.  One who talks about society isn’t necessarily a socialist, and one who makes references about community isn’t necessarily a communist.  Just as a local celebrity who speaks baloney isn’t necessary one of your friendly neighborhood (F.N.) politicians. 

     But the alien’s point about raising a generation of impoverished drones made sense.  The generation that starts out as infant suckers of milk matures into a generation of adult suckers whose parents’ generation had already used up all the cash and natural resources.  The arguments against contraception and abortion ensure that of all the human sucklings born, there’s an impoverished sucker born every minute.  And in the spirit of P.T. and W.C., the F.N. politicians will ensure that they won’t be giving such a sucker an even tax break very soon.  

     Maybe the alien wasn’t a true communist; he could have been speaking mere common sense, something they didn’t always do in the Sovietsky Soyuz.  On our world, we humans live in common communities within larger societies which comprise a union of states, but that union aspect certainly doesn’t make us leftists.  Moreover, the alien’s communist-leaning comments did seem to demonstrate a sincere concern about our survival.  Maybe he was a compassionate bleeding-heart liberal who felt sorry for us bloodthirsty humans, and wanted to give us a nudge in the right direction, rather than the left.  Like other alienated liberals who live among us, he was probably afraid of only three things:  Guns, death, and Texas.  

     The distinction between communist and socialist has often evaded us.  Even today, I can’t tell the difference.  Things are so confusing.  After all the blacklists from the McCarthy witch-hunts against suspected communists, it seems that only Nixon could go to China.  

      “It is not enough to generate multitudes of impoverished slave labour,” he continued lecturing.  “You need to arouse the creative spirit of human innovation in every person for the welfare of humanity.  The genius of your generation is in danger of running out.”  

      I had become familiar by this time with the alien’s liberal spin on things and decided to comment on it.

     “There you go with that liberal talk again.    How is that generational genius running out, if we sincerely believe that God gave us everything we need to survive?  Given the resources and the especially privileged planetary conditions, why would He risk success by giving us such a prejudiced mental capacity?  Why go to all the trouble of patiently developing intelligent life on the planet?”

      “A very good question, human.  Indeed, a very good question.  But before I deal with that question, I would like to take issue with the use and abuse of the word ‘liberal’.  There has been so much on your planet spun against liberals and liberal thinking.  Yet, when you explore the word ‘liberal’ you will find that it means fair and balanced, like your zodiac sign ‘Libra’.  We noticed your World Book’s definition of ‘Liberal’, in an entry by Hubert Humphrey back in 1963.  He noted that the word referred to tolerance, equality, and fairness.   These are basic tenets of a free society of which you claim to be a part.”

      I remembered Hubert Humphrey, but for some reason was confused with Horatio Hornblower.  I wasn’t sure why.  But though I understood what the alien was saying, I still resented the implication that liberals are the only true innovators and pioneers.  True, they could perhaps be seen as the ones who aren’t satisfied with the status quo and are ready to go on the offensive to explore.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean that conservatives are always on the defense and are interested in keeping things the way they have traditionally been, always fighting against change.  That kind of thinking is too extreme and simplistic, I thought.

     Thinking back to how the pronunciation of the word “often” has changed, that letter “T” seems to be a truly important letter.  It separates liberals from libertarians.  But “liberal” and “liberty” have the same root.  A simple change in application of the last two letters, whether these are “al” or “ty”, you have a world of difference between ideologies.   The root word “Liber” seems to have two totally different sons in conflict.  Ty is the libertarian and Al is the liberal.  The two twins are at odds, like Cain and Abel, like Romulus and Remus, like Union and Confederate. 

     T is important.  Without it, Mister T would be just Mister.   Tea parties would be just parties in both London and Boston.   Soviet T-34 and T-72 tanks, T-REX dinosaurs, T-squares, as well as T-shirts and genes would all change without that letter.   The letter T tends to convert ask-masters into task-masters.  Strategically and tactically it can turn error into terror.  And it’s the one and only letter with the power to change morality into mortality.

     After the momentary aside concerning the superlative and pejorative consequences of liberal thinking, the alien got back on track.  “To answer your question about the development of intelligent of life on your planet, we on Zatox feel that unfortunately, there are many examples that demonstrate how the homo genus wastes its genius, becoming homogenous when humans begin to think too much alike.  You have lost your innovative spirit, your originality if you will.  You have developed a copy and paste mentality that has overtaken your development of new ideas.”

     Then I noticed he turned a bright purple.  “I must admit, human, I am very curious about this.  What is the matter?  Take, for example, the multitude of movie-remakes, new productions of old ideas.  What’s wrong with your innovative skills, the ones God has given you?  Cannot you come up with new ideas that relate with social dilemmas?  Certainly the advent of your internet and cellphone technology you can apply new ideas.  Why must all your new ideas be remakes of old ones?” 

     I was stumped with this question.  I had no original ideas to come up with an answer.  Maybe our creative gridlock had something to do with our saturation of culture.  Maybe we were just scared of the unknown.  We used to be so original with ideas.  Maybe this is an era of post-creativity.  Perhaps it is a case of post dramatic stress.”

     I was open to suggestions, and so I asked:  “What do you think the reason is for this?”

      “On the many other civically challenged planets, new ideas are hard to come by.  In the case of the planet Earth, as I have learned here today, very few people with money are willing to take a risk on something new.  This is why creativity is shunned; it is too risky to utilize.  You humans should be looking seriously at this.  You need to get a system that works to provoke your peoples’ imagination.  Otherwise you will be unable to move forward and meet the challenges your future will bring.  You will regret that day the Earth stood still and you stopped dreaming.  For that would be childhood’s end.”

     He really had a flair for the dramatic, both literally and cinematically.  But his last comment made me feel sad and degraded.  It was like being forced to give back the college degree earned in hard study.  I felt our species was demoted from the system like the former planet Pluto:  Too controversial, too distant from the light, and too slow to move.   

     I still regret the day we started standing still, when the wooden shoes of gridlock started to first sabotage our progress.  Some decades ago we seemed to think we were on the right track.  But somewhere along the way we started going in the wrong direction.  The letdown is harder to accept than an Apollo command module splashdown into the Pacific after orbiting Earth and moon.  We were expecting heroism to continue, anticipating the leadership of someone like Oliver North to guide and lead us in the right direction, but instead winding up misled by soldier Stanley South, who navigated us in the opposite direction.

     The alien somehow sensed my dismay:  “Please do not feel bad, human.   I am sorry if I hurt your feelings, and I did not mean to have sounded so critical.  Our lack of interest in friendship is not out of arrogance.  We are not like you in this respect.  We are not snobs that snub.  It is just that you are so typical and common as species go.  You are too proud of yourselves, and your pride gets in the way.   In fact, it blinds us considerably and has the effect of concealing you from our search for intelligent life.  I am sorry, but this happens to be the way we Zatoccians, and other creatures of true intelligence out there perceive you.  We do not see the necessity to engage your typically proud species when there are so many other billions of stars with planets around them that contain intelligent life.”

     Right now I wasn’t feeling too proud.  But I couldn’t resist asking, “So it is our pride that gets in the way?   “How does pride derail trust?  All our money says ‘In God We Trust’.  We take pride in our money, and the more money we have, the more pride we have.”

      “Very well said, human.  You have hit the nail right on the capital!  That statement pretty much highlights a difference between pride and trust.  The two in practice are vector opposites.    And that derails the trust which extraterrestrial intelligent life would otherwise have in you.  It explains why no species of truly advanced intelligence wants to engage you.  You are proud of yourselves, before you have even proven yourselves worthy of that pride.”

     I never thought about how pride can derail trust.  But people seem to have lost both together simultaneously.  It seems clear that people don’t trust their government representatives anymore.  For example, we always assumed that members of Congress were decent enough not to be investing in the stock market, as they have knowledge about legislation that could affect stocks, such as pharmaceuticals, energy, etc.  We took pride in that assumption, and it was that pride that blinded us.  If the press were to investigate  this, it would probably find that the Watergate scandal paled in comparison.  The fact that they don’t investigate such financial activities of our elected officials is in itself something of an “investi-gate” scandal.  Such a Washington Post-mortem would raise further questions about the umpires who were supposed to regulate charlatans like Madoff.

      The leadoff question of such an investi-gate scandal would perhaps be:  Why didn’t the SEC and FINRA regulators investigate Madoff while the investment damage was still going on?  The on-deck question would be why do those regulators still have their jobs, while so many long-term unemployed professionals don’t have theirs and continue to be screwed.  Next up in-the-hole, it could be asked why do we have regulators who get paid NOT to do their jobs?  Then comes the cleanup-hitter question, assuming the other batters didn’t get called out and that there is a fresh umpire crew to continue calling balls and strikes:  What can anyone in Congress do to play ball fairly so that we can get back the peoples’ faith and trust?  Between the inaugural balls and the minimum wage workers’ strikes, what trustworthy person is left to call the balls and strikes?

      “But is it that pride which derailed our superpower ability?” I asked.

     I found it interesting and somewhat ironic too, that pride blinded us to the truth, as both our pride and faith in government dropped like fallen angels.

      “Apparently so.  We have seen this so many times in your history.  After technological achievements comes celebration; after that comes the pride; then comes neglect, followed by social decay; then the republic becomes the empire controlled by family dynasties, after the democracy gets replaced by an oligarchy of vote-buyers, after the oligarchy becomes morphed into a dynasty type of monarchy, after the quality of mercy becomes strained by repeated injustice and unfairness, the house falls like cards.  The girders fail, the brick and mortar collapse and the beams fall downward to the Earth.”

     That would be a disaster, but I could see it coming, and can see it more clearly each day.  As social neglect becomes the norm, more and more people do not get deployed to improve the quality of life.  After long periods of time in which people are not employed, upward mobility becomes futile in a feudal economy where cash flow becomes like a river with currents flowing only towards the already affluent on the exclusive riverfront property or the riverbanks themselves.

      “Why must this always happen?” I asked earnestly.

      “It all comes from what you call ‘human nature’.  When you see your leadership go from democratic republic to corrupt empire you begin to get suspicious of each other and cynically stand your ground against each other’s invasion of your territory.”

      “Now, wait just a minute,” I protested, noticing I was holding him back.  “We’re NOT as bad as that!”

      “Actually, you are worse.  You are much, much worse,” he countered, sounding like Jerry Seinfeld.  “The intelligent-life planets see that in you are exhausting the natural resources on your own precious planet Earth.  You seem to be looking for planets similar to Earth so that you can ravage them, too.  We see you as looking for other worlds to trash.  Your own convenient sphere of influence is apparently not enough for you.  You need more living space, more “lebensraum” to conquer and ravage.

     Now I felt as small as a neutrino, belittled to the subatomic level.  I wish I could have gone back in time one minute ago to take back my protest, but like everything else that happens, it too was too late.  I couldn’t take it back.  Every now and then in the here and now, the feeling of being too late has to be reckoned with.  And if not now and not later, then when?  Now I sounded silly, like Nee-Lee-Millie.   

      “So are you saying we humans are hopeless?”

      “Not at all.  Please do not misunderstand me, human.  We have great hopes for you.  We just need to have great patience.  You will develop someday, and thrive in time.  Space is all around you, and time is on your side.  Apparently you will need a lot of both.  Right now you have a wonderful planetary home.  You are not homeless and thus not hopeless. But you are impatient, and perhaps somewhat petulant, too.”

     I guess we humans should be grateful with what we’ve got.  I guess it’s never too late to offer thanks, though it’s always later than one thinks just as we all may have less time than we thought.  Maybe money is just like that, as time is money.  We may have even less of that than we think, too.

      “You see, human, true civil behavior takes time.  Through only through a period of desert-type cleansing will the descendants be able to have acquired the wisdom to live in peace.  Only then will they be worthy.  By that time they may know when and how to challenge themselves, and then they will be ready to be engaged across the stars.  Maybe you should be calling them your successors and not descendants. ”

     I noted the difference.  I preferred to have successors rather than descendants, as I preferred to consider the future success of mankind rather than its descent.  I had never noticed that connection before.  And to think it took a freaky alien to make the lien.

      “But what should such sacrificing generations do in the meantime?” I asked. 

      “In the meantime, study your oceans.  Study its inhabitants and its environment.  Learn to overcome water pressure and explore from up close the crevices and trenches in your waters, like your Trieste vessel did over half a century ago.  And there are other fascinating places on your sphere waiting for you to discover.  The exploration is excellent practice for the stars.  Why go speculating in far-away places when you have so many new creatures to study right here, under your noses, under the surface?”

      “When will we know when we are ready for the stars?”

      “Oh, you will know it.  It will be more than the realization that you have vanquished evil just by defeating your earthy enemies in world wars.  You will learn that evil does not simply come to an end just because you nominally declare it to be defeated.  You will come to know that there is more to sustainable living than having beaten an adversary you perceived as brutal.  I will put it more simply, though you may be finding this out already:  Just because a wicked enemy is vanquished, does not mean that evil has been removed from the planet.  The depraved will of man will not be expelled by means of a short war, but rather in a process that will last centuries, perhaps eons.”

     I think I understood what he was saying.  At the end of World War II, we realized the defeat of a brutal axis of regimes that murdered tens of millions of people, both soldiers and civilians.  So as victors, we thought we had defeated evil itself.  We thought we had gotten rid of aggressive cruelty forever.  That now seems shortsighted.  We have still met a great many enemies, who are US:  Those on the inside. 

      “This oblate spheroid you call Earth is very much like the rugby ball, or American football you use to play your most aggressive sports.  It is your instinctive warlike activity that concerns us most of all.  Your competitive wars are so wasteful, and you have so many names for them.  You have wars of temperature both hot and cold, wars of time lasting six days to hundred years, revolutionary wars, civil wars, and so many others with so much blood absorbed in the oceans and land of your rugby football.  There are so many wars in which only stones were thrown, and after a nuclear war you will probably have more of these.” 

     I was hoping he would be offering some truce in his relentless denouncement of humanity, but no cease fire seemed on the horizon. 

     “Even your literature and culture point to your making war over the flimsiest excuses.  Which side of the egg’s oblate spheroid to crack in Gulliver’s Travels or which language should be the official one.   Conflict seems to be a recurring theme going back to your Cain and Abel.  You could not even have two brothers without a conflict.  It seems to be the way of man.  That is precisely why we want no part of humanity.  We want nothing to do with it.”  

     I understood what the alien was saying.  It made me think again about the various places in the Bible where God is disappointed in mankind.   Adam and Eve, who raised Cain, who in turn went on to kill his brother Abel over jealousy of a sacrifice, was only the beginning.  That was followed by the inherently inherited evil of Noah’s time that caused God to regret with all His heart that He created humans, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the regret that Israel urged Samuel to have a king, and many others.  Some agnostic philosophers have even suggested that God doesn’t really have a plan, but rather the universe is His laboratory, where He rolls the dice.  Unlike the deist approach, they would argue that God does not know the future, and that every now and then He has to intervene to put humanity back on the correct right path of righteousness.  Though the agnostics and the theists understand each other, the argument has opened many great forbidden discussions.  Because it not only gives support to free will and multiple parallel universes, but also calls into question the taboo issue regarding the infinite nature of God’s Intelligence.  But if these were forbidden foods for thought, why were we given the ability to think them? 

      “Here is another example of how insolent you are:” he continued unabatedly, “Your science-fiction folklore continues the theme of warlike aggression into the third dimension, from the terrestrial to extraterrestrial.  Instead of becoming interested in scientific ideas, you are worried about invasions of space-creatures with diabolical intentions.  You never stop to realize that no creature of any intelligence in this or any other galaxy is interested in conquering any piece of your planet.  Not even as a trophy or souvenir.”

     Funny how the alien made implicit reference to War of the Worlds.  And here I have been suspicious of the alien’s intentions for the visit.  In our defense I made this plea:  “At least we’re demonstrating our creativity.  You yourself said we copy too many ideas.  Doesn’t this prove our creative capabilities?  Many of us were scared by both Wells and Welles.”

      “True, but that merely repeats the same theme of human belligerence.  It is just dressed in space uniforms.  It is a continuation of the same theme of conquest.  But you take your human wasteful ways to pollute other worlds.  You are under the impression that we are just as warlike, and that is somewhat insulting.  Why drag us down to your level?  What makes you and your species think we or any other intelligent species would even CONSIDER the notion to divide and conquer your planet?  Just because we have the capabilities to do so, why do you presume that we are as barbaric as you?  Why do you conclude that it is our objective to invade and conquer your planet?  When you assume, you make a donkey of both you and me.”

     The mistake in his phrasing would have made me laugh, but I was preoccupied with shame.  At least, I assumed that was a mistake.  Maybe it was deliberate, and if so, you can kiss my assumption good-bye.

     “I don’t know,” I answered with my head lowered in a mea culpa confessional posture.  Maybe it’s our history.  We have come to expect barbarism and invasion of foreigners.  Maybe it has become something of a defense mechanism.  It has become our karma.

     The alien continued in that Emile Zola accusatory tone with which I had become familiar:  “No intelligent creature in the universe and no sentient being in its right mind is considering even for a fraction of a moment to invade your planet.  The very fact that you would even THINK that we or someone with our technology would travel so many beams of light-years just in order to raid and ransack your planet, indicates your true nature.  It is a sign of your mental inadequacies and your inability to take part in our interplanetary cooperative ventures of peaceful coexistence and on-going education.”

     I thought for a moment:  Maybe our primitive and primate-like instincts ARE indeed those of invasion and war.  But I refuse to believe that aggression is all we have ever known.  The alien had left me speechless.  I made an effort to recover, but it seemed rather too lame and too late.

      “Your preoccupation with the theme of war, even in your science-fiction, is all what you call a ‘dead-giveaway’ to your primitive ideas.  The seizure, pillaging, despoiling and devastating the landscape are what you humans are familiar with, either as victims or as looters.  You are recent descendants of rapists and it will take some time to grow out of it.  Ravaging and scavenging for plunder is what you know to do, even today.  Though you are all too often intellectual boors, when you DO show imagination and creativity, you show your true colors.”  

     Look who’s talking about showing true colors.  I now began to understand what he meant in his comparison between pride and trust. 

     We humans need to get a life.  We assume that visitors are coming here not out of friendship, but out of aggression.  We expect Kanamits will visit Earth looking to serve man on a platter, or a hybrid Independence Day the Earth stood still, or a Borg collective looking to assimilate humans whose resistance is futile.  Our very suspicion gave us away.  Our true colors were apparent not only in spectral analysis, red shifts and blue shifts of our planet, but in our wasteful racist chromosomes.

     I wasn’t sure why the alien insisted on driving home his point, but for some reason he continued drilling down:  “On Zatox we have not been able to understand why you humans use belief in God and organized religion to justify your urge to brutalize and terrorize one-another.  It seems that the evil people among you, the true non-believers in “Cōgitās Ergo Es” and “Cōgitānt Ergo Sunt”, the true infidels of God’s essence, that insist on terrorizing good people, many of them as innocent as newborns themselves.   And yet the inquisitors among you, and those who call for jihad, those who fail to understand that they are not alone and that there are other conscious existing souls out there who are good people, have ravaged the populace, causing nothing but suffering and wars.  And all in the name of God.  You have not only taken that name in vein, but the evil have used it and abused it as a pretense to perform dastardly deeds.   This is what you humans have shown us.  And not just through the annals of your history, but from both front and anal sides of your existence, not only from the near side of your moon, but from the far side as well.”

     What a speech!  Speechless it made me, as Yoda might have said.  Looking for some solace in his enlightenment of the far side, I tried to change gears in this remark:  “Anyway, I’m glad you came.  At least it’s good to find out that we are not alone.”

     “Oh, you are NOT alone –that is true.  But though there are many other barbaric planets like yours out there, you are incapable of connecting with them.  You are limited in your ability to connect the dots of such worlds to form a network of intelligent life.  But maybe someday you will be.  In the meantime, for all intents and purposes, until you connect the dots - you ARE alone, E pluribus Unum, as there are plenty of other species like you who are not alone.”

     I never thought that NOT being alone would give leave me with such a sour taste, even on an empty stomach.  I felt like the fox in that Aesop’s fable who couldn’t reach the grapes and thus determined that they were sour, anyway.  The sour wrath I had wasn’t too different. 

     I felt sorry for both our peoples.  “I am sorry to disappoint you on this.  But it’s good to know that you aren’t ignoring us from out there wherever you are.”

      “Heavens!  Heavens NO, I should say, human!  We are in touch with a great many of planets out there with intelligent life who have ALREADY visited your planet.  But they will not engage you.  They have been warned about you and know about you.”

     I was stubborn, I admit, but didn’t want to give up:  “I really wish you wouldn’t stay away.  I’m sorry you’re afraid of us.” 

     I wanted to learn more about his planet and his intelligent allies.  I admit to being curious about the extraterrestrial curious, whose curiosity about us didn’t seem to arouse them to make contact.  And to think I had been afraid of an invasion force from his own planet.  My apprehension turned to embarrassment and then to shame. 

      “It is not only out of fear and concern for our own safety that we are not interested in engaging your species, human.  It is also out of boredom.  We are more interested in the teeming life out there among the many billions of galaxies containing hundreds of billions of stars.  There is just so much to do; so much to see; so much to learn.  We simply do not feel sufficiently motivated to contact you.”

     Now THERE was a snub.  I had no idea that extraterrestrials were such snubbing snobs. 

      “Please do not take this the wrong way, human.  I see that you are unhappy, and that was not my intention.   But it is the truth that is out there.  Despite the universe’s teeming with intelligent life, your species is one of the many pariahs out there no one of intelligence wants to talk to.”

     I guess if this were a multiple choice question, the correct answer would be ‘none of the above’.

     Then I asked, “Are you saying we should give up the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life?”

“No, continue the search.  It may help you develop these norms, although there is no guarantee of that.  If it makes you feel good, continue looking for intelligent life.  You may find a few hundred planets in the Goldilocks zone each year, but all you can do is look.  For the truly intelligent life that is actually out there will not want to reach out to you even if you address it directly.”

     “That sounds very discouraging.  Very demoralizing.  I am sorry we are too primitive for your taste.”

     “So are we.  Our investigations have uncovered evidence that the grey matter between your ears is as grey as a confederate soldier’s uniform, and that grey matter conflicts with the dark matter that you introduce in order to explain why the universe seems to be missing mass.  Your conflicts of matter all too often grow into an uncivil war between the states of mind, and your uniformed uncivil warlike disobedience frequently violates our norms of universal cooperation.  Consequently you are so frustrated at your inability to think outside the box that all you can do is pitch black holes as a resolution to your scientific dilemma.   You do so with your pitch-black shadowy enlightenment.”

     The alien continued to organize his equipment for the long journey.  Between the data backup and the equipment backup, he was doing his best to field my questions.

     “And all this you have noticed from so far away?” I asked, seeing that I was holding him back from his efforts to pack.

     He then paused to tell me.  “Yes, this has been noticed.  Your political science is not opaque.  We can see you.  And right through you, too.  Our beams shed light on what lies within you, and the truth comes out of all that which lies within.  As one of your popular songs attests, we see very well how life flows on within you and without you.  We see that your people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion never glimpse the truth.”

     We were talking about the space between us all and somehow got sidetracked to the Civil War and then to the Beatles.   “It seems to me that there is no hope in our search for extraterrestrial intelligent life.”

     “Just because YOU and your contemporaries will not live to see the finding of intelligent life in the stars out there, does not mean it is not worth the effort.  I never said that.  None of us ever did. We simply feel that you are not ready.  Not in your present form.  You need to first get intelligence yourselves before you know what wisdom to look for in others.  Your problem is that you don’t know what to look for.  Intelligence is there only for the intelligent.  Not for your political scientists on Earth.” 

     I saw his point, and happened to agree with it.  Political science seems like a crooked line.  When a politician has to bend the rules of ethics through lies and broken promises, such a bending has a cost.  It comes from the credit limit provided by the Devil, who has been known to underwrite mortgaged souls from the underground.    The greater the morality the less used from that precious and pricy credit when mortality defeats morality and death’s debt is called.  I wonder how many politicians still have unconsumed credit left on the card and how much has been consumed by fire. 

     “You humans have to learn to learn from your own history.  To connect the dots.  Otherwise, as your own George Santayana admonished, you are doomed to repeat it. If you compare the Olympic village in 1936 Berlin to and Russia’s 2014 Potemkin Village on the Black Sea, and if you draw parallels between the Sudetenland to the Crimea, if the situation in Tibet reminds you of the historical neglect in Kurdistan, if you see similarities between the Roman Republic and the American Republic, and from the Berlin Wall to Wall Street, all this it is no coincidence.  In watching for historical relevance from past experience,” he continued somewhat hurriedly “remember that no two situations are the same.  You have to use your minds to find similarities and connect dots in ways computers cannot.”

     The alien paused for a moment, apparently noticing my dismay at being snubbed.  “Let me put this in terms you can understand, human:  Just like the Earth had to cool over many millions of years, your civilization hasn’t cooled to the point where we can touch it.  You are still in heat and if we try to make contact, we will get burned.  You blame that heat on your Devil, when it is YOU who are not cool enough to be one of our friends.”

     I will definitely miss this extraterrestrial’s wit.  These days it seemed like something foreign, not of this world.  But now he seemed in a hurry to get back out there back to truth.  So he started to speak a bit faster in order to finish compiling his findings while concluding his thoughts.

     “So go ahead, human:  Look for the truth.  Seek out new life and new civilizations if that is what makes feel warm and fuzzy.  Continue the progress you have been making in recent years for planets that might support life.   Look for water on those planets if you like.  Seek and you will find.  But remember, it is much easier looking for a glass of water in your home than in a place that is many miles away.  Like the gentle rain from heaven, that quality of mercy which seems to underlie the Divinely delicate factors that sustain your world with warmth, planetary stability, protective magnetic field, breathable air, a jovial sister planet whose gravity pulls in potential disasteroids, plenty of sunshine beams for the photosynthesis of your plants, and practically all the time in the world to develop – all these factors place you in a miraculous situation.”

     “When you put it that way…”

     Then the alien stopped me with this colorful gem:  “It is easier to look for any kind of needle at the corner drug store than it is to find one in a haystack.  Anyone who needs a needle can find one, and all too often they get stuck when they least expect it.  Needles can get under your skin for better or for worse.  Why look through haystacks in foreign lands if you can find them so very close to home?   True, looking for that proverbial needle in a haystack may be a fun hobby for some of you, but it will not get you very far.” 

     The subject of needles would have left me in stiches if it weren’t for the realization that our chances to engage life seemed to be no better than going to Seattle’s Space Needle of the 1962 World’s Fair, and look for a haystack in that needle which points intrepidly towards outer space.  But as far as I know, no one has ever found a haystack there.  I doubt if anyone was ever looking for one there or in any other part of this world’s fair places.

     The alien continued to compile his data.  After a few moments he noticed that I was staring at him.  He paused again from his preparations and turned to me.  With a look of apparent pity, he tried to reconcile his words:   “Do not be sad, human.  This is not a dead-end.  Think of it as a live-start.  Do not look behind.  Move forward.  Continue looking for stars and planets that can support intelligent life.  But remember, you have a large amount of heavy lifting to do here on your planet, no matter where you stand.  You have much to explore, much to learn, much to admire, much to enhance.  So before going out there to trash other worlds like you are doing to your own.”

     This was an interesting argument.  The alien wasn’t beckoning us to go anywhere, just home.  I guess that those of us who would make their home on a Flying Dutchman looking should be careful not to be cast downward into the underworld of Davy Jones Locker.

     “Cherish your planet,” the alien continued.  “It is the only one you have got, for now and the foreseeable future.  Stay home.  Watch the stars and the clouds.  Enjoy home-cooking.  There is no need to venture out THERE, yet.  Not until your descendants are ready.  But, by all means:  Have your scientists continue the search, if that is what they like to do.  For it is all about the dreams and the beams of enlightenment.”

     I guess maybe we should enjoy home-cooking, especially when the stakes are so high.  This planet was apparently a rare spheroid orbiting a medium star in a miraculous act of creation which God saw was well-done.  And it all started with the commandment: ‘Let there be light! Hopefully, those beams of ‘nur’ will nourish the seeds of the future so that future generations will be worthy to engage other life forms out there.  We need to sow now, so that the seed may reap the rewards of interstellar interaction.  It’s more than just high stakes and steaks. 

      “What can we do today to make ourselves presentable?” I asked.  Perhaps I was trying subconsciously to hold him back and delay his departure.

     My question made the alien put down his work in preparation for what would possibly be a more deliberate pause.  After thinking somewhat about what to say, he began to respond to my question.

     “I know it is hard, and easier said than done, but you will need to change your survival paradigm so that you sacrifice your present existence for the future lives of your descendants.” 

      “How do we do that?” I asked like a child who asks a parent questions about the bedtime story just read.

     “Looking back in your past, humans have shown the capability of planning ahead.  You learned that you could hunt for food and preserve it over time so that others in your family could eat.  Today was for savoring, tomorrow was for saving the leftovers.  The principles of storing food became central as you learned to plan for the future.  You came to understand that your own preservation became dependent on your ability to preserve food for future meals, as your species went from hunting to farming and raising livestock in a sharp change in a new animal husbandry survival strategy.  Then your ancestors learned it was possible to trade some livestock for others in deals that offered exchanges such as domesticated dogs for goats, or wool for beef, or horsepower for pork bellies, or anything else that would bring some perceived additional utility for each side of the trade.  Beginning with livestock, humans started to perceive there were other types of stock that could be exchanged on the market.  That realization lasts to this day on your stock exchanges.  In doing so, you have learned to taken stock in your assets give in exchange that which you may have in abundance in order to balance your liabilities in a give-and-take market approach.”

     I guess that really was an important stage in human development.  I never really thought of it.  But the characteristic of thinking ahead has had a profound impact on our society.  And I guess we should be concerned if that society ends up in worse shape than before.  We shouldn’t leave our world in a different shape than the one we found it in.  Certainly our souls don’t leave our bodies in the same shape we found them in as fetuses and newborn infants.

      “So, human, you CAN think ahead and plan for the future.  In the same way you can work now so that future generations reap the benefits.  This shows us that you are capable of preparing future generations for joining the family of intelligent life – but not quite yet.  It may be necessary for you to go through some sort of cleansing, or perhaps more precisely growing pains, that only time can provide.  You will also need to come to the realization that principles of storage can be abused by hoarders like the Pharaohs.  In the meantime, your species has not realized this epiphany.  Right now you are just not ready for us.”

     This was unnerving.  The fact that my generation the boomers won’t be seeing extraterrestrial intelligent life was a disappointment very tough to bear.  The boomer generation has nothing to look forward to except its own decline and fall through the big “die-off” years of 2030-2050.  At that time those generated from the womb in the post-war boom go to back to dust in droves at the twilight of their bust years.   Like their parents of the nuclear bomb generation, sometimes called the “greatest” generation, we too won’t be seeing extraterrestrial intelligence.  That is, except for myself and others perhaps privileged enough to have come into contact with this representative of extensive universal intelligence.

      “But can we do ANYTHING right now to get ready?”  I continued to ask rather obstinately.

      “Maybe you can start practicing sacrifice.”

      “Really?  Sacrifices?   Burnt offerings?   With human blood like ancient pagan rituals?    Like Walpurgis Night?  Or some illuminati blood sacrifice illuminated by beams of darkness?   Or do you mean ceremonies with sacrificial lambs, sheep, goats or other offerings on temple altars?  Or perhaps the Thanksgiving turkey?”  I asked, a bit worn from the hunger.

     “Not those types of sacrifices, human.  You can prevent your fall from gracious grace by first abandoning your ‘on-fall’ mentality.  When I mentioned ‘sacrifice’ I meant the altruistic act of doing things for others, of sacrificing your instant gratification for others.  And these others are your descendants, your progeny.   That is the sacrifice I was referring to.”

      “What do you mean by ‘on-fall’?” I asked.  I wasn’t trying to delay the alien’s departure.  I really wanted to know what he meant.  Every morsel of wisdom seemed to open a new door, and I realized there would be no opportunity to access the wisdom of this oracle.  Was he criticizing us humans for repeatedly falling on our proverbial swords? 

     The alien then countered rather cleverly:  “Instead of being ‘on-fall’, do the opposite - consider the ‘off-spring’, the ones who will inherit your world.  Put an end to your selfishness and begin living an altruistic paradigm, by things for others not yet born.  You must begin to put value into the system so that your progeny can reap the benefits.  To quote the people of your wine cellars and their own wine-sellers, you should ‘sell no wine before it is time.’” 

     He began preparing for his departure, but after a few seconds added with a befuddled expression:  “Or is it, ‘sell no wine before its time’”.  

     After a few seconds he shrugged off the double-entendre and got back to work. He apparently was anxious to leave and deliver the information he gleaned for processing by his social scientists.  He seemed very methodical in his preparations, knowing that perhaps he would never be coming back here, short straw notwithstanding.  I think he found it hard to work with me hovering over him.  I was bothering him now.  I was doing the poking and prodding and the alien wanted to go free.  Now THAT was a switch.   

     No hope of interstellar engagement.  This was disappointing.  “What about that psalm that says ‘They that sow in tears shall reap in joy?’  Doesn’t that mean that the generation that works hard gets rewarded?”

      “Very interesting that you mention your 126th Psalm.  The reaping that you get is peace of mind that you are going in the right direction.  It is a spiritual peace of mind, not a physical one.  By the time our peoples are ready to become fast friends, both you and I will have been deceased.   It is our descendants that will inherit the friendship which has to be earned over time by the generations in between.  They shall be coming home with joy, bearing the sheaves of friendship.”

      “It’s too bad those that tend to work hard don’t see the fruits of their labors.”

      “But the children are the seed that become the fruit in your nurtured soil.  Does not the welfare and success of succeeding generations matter to you?

     I will miss that Stonehenge brogue.  “You have a point.  I guess that’s part of how hard work and planning for the future, collecting natural resources rather than last minute hunting makes sense.  This epiphany was very important in our development.”  I said, mustering all my malnourished brain cells.

      “That is right, human.  Until greed corrupts the idea of the store and of personal property, as Pharaohs would use and abuse slave labour to make store cities. But if the planning ahead is done for the public good for future generations, the sacrifice of that selfishness will be the gain of future generations.  A metamorphosis without fearful metamor-phobias of change.  You need to rise above your inhumanity by being more humane.   What makes you think you will not be able to achieve this?”

     I didn’t know what he meant:  Either cannot change or cannot think.  In any case, I was very sorry that we wouldn’t be meeting again out in space.  “That’s a shame,” I said.

      “Maybe so.  But it is human nature.  Right now your generation is like the Israelites in the desert.  In fact all the recent human societies have been in the desert wandering and meandering through, not ready to cross over into the Promised Land.  You need to understand that YOU will not taste of your work.  Only those whom you have not known and whose souls have not yet been formed will enjoy the feast of your sacrifice.  They will cross over and reap the benefits.  But that is only the first part.”

      “What do you mean ‘only the first part’?  What comes next?”

      “Once you realize that you yourselves will not reap those benefits and that your descendants must build up the trust, you become altruistic and sacrificing yourselves so that they might live.  Perhaps they will be the ones to first see the light, and THEY will become worthy of our attention.  But your progeny must be very different from you.  They can NOT be political like you.  They will have to evolve over time in order to be true to themselves.  Remember, you are still recent descendants of brutal plunderers and rapists.” 

      “So what should be the next step?” I asked with interest. 

      “The first thing you should do is resolve to never again take the attitude of ‘wait for future generations to solve this.’  Why should they have to solve the problems YOU created?  Why do they need to deal with the trash swirl in the Pacific or the space junk from old satellites and other debris?  Why do you insist on handing off your problems to future generations rather than transferring the vast wealth of knowledge you yourselves have worked so hard to achieve?”

     I understood very well what he was saying.  Today, people don’t just sit and think anymore.  They don’t just get lost in thought.  There are just too many distractions that enslave our otherwise free thought.  Too many of us closely attached to our electronic devices.  We should be left to our own devices, not our phone devices.

     The alien was putting things away, getting ready to leave, then stopped and looked again at me.  “The whys to your woes are very clear:  The very unemployment problem you have been having is actually a symptom of the larger problem you have of creativity.  It is actually both a symptom AND a cause.  It is like the chicken and egg.  As long as there are talented people out there on the couch who are not deployed and not employed, the resulting economic problems plaguing your society will linger.   But you, human, you have to keep going and continue the search for work.  You need to have faith that someday it will come, just like intelligent and non-belligerent life forms will someday engage you in friendship.”

     I was really sad to see my comrade leave.  I will miss his rich tovarisch liberal remarks, his colorful rainbow approach to human life, and his observations to the salient elements of our way of thinking.  As a result of our friendship I would never see the number eleven in the same way.  I thought of that number’s binary representation of two, and now understood why Christopher Robin asked Pooh for their multiplicative product in Milne’s uniquely rhythmic poem “Us Two”.  I imagined that high place on the top of the Hill at Galleons Lap where a boy and his bear are still playing.  I dedicated a similar poem to my alien friend: 

          Wherever I am there’s always you

          There’s always you and me. 

          You came and asked, “What’s troubling you? 

          Oh, why are you feeling so down and blue?

          And so I opened my soul to you: 

          Here is my story from A to Z. 

          It’s hard to believe, but true:

  

          Thanks for your insight,” I heard from you. 

          For what?” you heard from me. 

          “On helping me grasp human points of view,

          And why you cannot just think things through.

          This wasn’t the easiest thing to do,

          But thanks all the same said you to me.

          I couldn’t have done it without you.”

     I was grateful for my alien friend’s enlightening visit, but was somewhat at odds as to why his arrival had been so sudden like a flash of light and his departure process was becoming longer than George Washington’s farewell speech to the troops or to Congress.  Maybe that’s how new ideas sometimes come:  they arrive in a flash of brilliance but manifest themselves slowly.

     I was sorry to have held him back, but I didn’t want him to go.  It seemed to me that he saw my distress at being shot down with my species.  While my alien friend was making final preparations for departure, I was thinking of something to say.  All I could muster up was “May the Force be with you.”

     “And with you too, human.  Keep up the force.  In time such a force can go far.  Remember, work is the resultant of force times distance.”

     More scientific banter.  At least he didn’t say something like “It is a far, far better thing that I do than to waste my time talking to you.”  That would have been devastating for me in my current state.

     In the meantime I was looking for something meaningful and solemn to say.  In retrospect I probably should have said something like the Orkian “Nanu-Nanu” or the Klingon “Kaplagh”.  Instead, I bade him an farewell rather unceremoniously, as if I had been saying good-bye to aliens every day.  I gave a typically human reverse-greeting that didn’t want to disclose my sadness at the parting:  “Take it easy.”

     “You too…take it easy, but take it…” he said, and then he was gone.  Like Dr. McCoy, he finally got the last word.

     His departing comment sounded like something from a communist ‘Talking Union’ diatribe.  It may have revealed his true socialist colors.  I was surprised by his final farewell, as I had been expecting something a bit more cliché like “Live long and prosper”, or “May the force be with you”.  I suppose I am a victim of a supersaturated sci-fi culture which often stymies innovation and creativity.  Maybe my own prejudices are one of the telling ‘signs’ of a conquest of our own ideas which once had been original but are now all-pervasive in our science fiction culture.  Maybe we really do live in a “copy and paste” society where untested but original ideas are considered too risky.     

    Then it hit me - he was gone, as suddenly as he came.  Without further “adieu” of any lingering kind, or an additional ‘thanks for the buggy ride’, the alien socialist leftist finally left.  No musical fanfare; nothing ceremonial like Bob Hope’s ‘Thanks for the memories’ or Carol Burnett’s ‘I’m so glad we had this time together.’  

    I began to feel like a leftover again, home alone as before.  I closed my eyes for an instant, and in that instant I perceived a flash of light whose beams seemed to pervade the room.  I was momentarily blinded as I was when he arrived, and as before my judgment seemed intact and unimpaired.

    In any case, I have to admit I was somewhat emotional at the fond farewell.  I felt like Dorothy somewhere over the rainbow when she had said goodbye to the good witch or to the scarecrow and tin-man before clicking her heels three times and waking up.  In the meantime I felt sleepy and lay back down on the couch.  I was so tired, I felt like the national debt: spent.

    His mention of the disasteroid raises further questions.  We humans have become so dependent on our fragile and antiquated power-grid and our computer interface software.  Everything we have could change by either a solar flare or a terrorist attack.  Instead of putting people back to work to update the grid, we prefer to keep them on the couches wasting away.  This is how unemployment is a threat to national security.  There are other kinds of disasteroids out there too we need to consider.

     I knew he was gone, but I didn’t open my eyes again, in case I would be blinded as I was when he made his entrance.  Keeping my eyes closed for a few minutes, I began thinking again about what Edgar Allan Poe had written and with which I had appreciated with personal saturnine and macabre identification:  “I felt that I lay upon my back, unbound…I strove to imagine where and what I could be. I longed, yet dared not to employ my vision. I dreaded the first glance at objects around me. It was not that I feared to look upon things horrible, but that I grew aghast lest there should be nothing to see. At length, with a wild desperation at heart, I quickly unclosed my eyes. My worst thoughts, then, were confirmed.”  

     He really was gone.   And I was still unemployed.  And hungry.  But I still remembered everything from what seemed to be a dream.   I concluded that nothing really happened, and that everything I experienced was in fact a dream, a figment of my imagination.  How could I, someone of apparently insufficient talent in order to find gainful employment have dreamed up a scenario?  I immediately tried to dismiss the occurrence as a figment of my imagination. 

    The alien’s visit, whether a dream or not, was an important lesson:  If a future version of yourself visits you and gives you advice in some time loop of pre-ordained inevitability, don’t forget to thank that older version of yourself.  A younger version will be coming along inevitably thanking you after you have come to give that younger you advice.  It’s something to do with the circle or life, or perhaps a cycle of fate, like my recurring dream I had had in three time-frames of reference.

    I wouldn’t mind getting into one of those loops, if time-travel does become possible in my lifetime.  I would think of finding a hideous costume to make me look just like the alien.  I would use a strong glue to keep my head attached, find a way to change colors at will and procure a strong blinding strobe light.  I would go back in time and visit myself, flashing the light in my eyes while saying exactly the same things the alien said to me.  It would serve me right.  I asked for it; me and my big mouth.  

     I was lying on the couch, regaining my strength of will to continue my quest for employment.  Whether this was a dream or not, I was re-invigorated with a sense of purpose.  I felt different now, an earthling with a home planet, a complete unknown like a rolling stone, as Dylan said.  I would rage, RAGE against the dying of the light beams.  If I ever found work, I would probably continue working until I drop or until my body’s bone density matches my mental bonehead density.  Like so many people in this economy, I have already burned up too much savings for retirement, anyway.  The dream of unemployment seems as likely as the alien’s visit – if it even WAS a dream.  Retirement seems a thing of the past, anyway.

     But first I had to eat.  I got up off the couch to see if I could find something to eat in my bare cupboards, but was then interrupted by a knock at the door.  When I opened it, I was surprised to find the pizza delivery guy at my front door.  “What took you so long?” I asked, in my waking stupor.

     “You only ordered this pizza twenty minutes ago.” He responded.  I guess time has a way of fooling you.  It seemed like an eternity. 

     “Oh, okay.  Thanks.  How much do I owe you?”

     “It’s already been paid for.  Tip and all.  Here it is.” I don’t know when he actually ordered the pizza, but I suppose he had many other abilities I didn’t understand.  Maybe he for the pizza with his frequent flier miles card, but didn’t stay to eat because he was too anxious to high-tail it home and digest the information I had helped provide him. Maybe he didn’t stay because Earth was too much for him. 

     “Thanks again,” I said politely to the delivery person, and closed the door gently.  I didn’t ask any more questions.  I brought in the pizza, and as I went over to the kitchen sink to get some water, I was wondering how he was able to pay for the pizza but didn’t want to join me in the feast.  I was grateful, but sorry the dream couldn’t continue any more.  I was pleased to have the opportunity to get that frustration off my chest.  I had to start writing everything down, now.  Otherwise it all wouldn’t amount to a hill of beams.

     While I was satisfying my hunger, my own thoughts became intermixed with the words from song by the Supremes some years ago, whose precise words I had since forgotten.  The lyrics of Diana Ross seemed to melt into my new grasp of reality, once the alien really shook me and took me out of my world.  I woke up…suddenly I just woke up.  Now I see life for what it is, it’s not all dreams, it’s not all bliss.  Is it real?  Is it fake?  I saw the light too late when that fickle finger of fate pointed to me as a candidate, for interrogations and investigations, which actually broke my balloon of self-pity.   Whether it was real or fake, I know this:  I had a dream today.

     I was beginning now to digest my ethereal experience.  It impressed me like Ehrmann’s Desiderata, in my feeling like a child of the unfolding universe, no less than the trees and the stars; my right to be here had been confirmed by this freakish visitor.  I hope he was able to get all the information he needed, as our paths would probably never cross again. 

     After having digested the pizza my brain cells having been fed, I decided not to dismiss the dream.  I would write everything down, and I would tell everyone about it.  Maybe I would draw some attention to myself.  After all, of all the people on the planet, it was me whom he visited.  Or, perhaps he visited other disenfranchised humans in the same way, with the same questions about society.  If you read these words, please let me know if you have been visited by a beaming luminary, too.  We can jointly take comfort in the notion that we are not alone.  

 

     So that’s my story, for whatever it’s worth.  It’s my inebriating two-cents plain, a cyclic end to a Passover tale of capricious animals from simple to advanced, from evolution to God:  Man bites dog; dog replaces machine as man’s best friend, machine replaced man, man replaces dog in this rough dog-eat-dog world, dog replaces machine.  No doubt when the canines howl at night they are complaining about how rough it is to lead a dog’s life in a man-eats-man world.  When the dogs are on a leash, they know who’s boss.  There are two ends to a leash and sometimes it’s hard to know who is leading and who is following.  The cycle seems as ongoing as a rock-paper-scissors contest.  

     So, that’s my story, as crazy as it seems.  I hope you won’t ignore it and that it helps you to see the light.  I am still wondering if I had seen the beams or if everything had been just one of those dreams.

       I never did thank that “masked man” for providing me with the pizza, whether he was in disguise or from the skies.  Anyway, the pizza tasted real enough, and I needed the dough, so I if he gets to read this from his distant weird planet, I would like him to know I appreciated the gesture.  If he visits you, maybe he’ll pay for your lunch, too, if you’re lucky enough to be beam-struck.

       But when all is said and done, when food-for-thought types of nourishment are consumed and digested, all good things must come to an end. 

  

i i i i i i

 

 This is

not the end

of BEAMS by any

 means, even by those

 means that justify...

THE END