On a recent weekend I lost my ATM card at a restaurant. I remembered where, but upon return learned their lost and found cupboard was bare. I was sure they’d have it, so that unreal expectation increased the blow when sudden inability to access cash prior to a business trip was confirmed. Losing things sucks, but it’s just stuff… and things. My card was replaced in 5 minutes after the trip. People aren’t as easily replaced and this life takes them indiscriminately.
I remember long ago talking over tears to say something like, “I’ll take this time to make myself a better person.” Self assessments are usually more critical than those of your peers, but I’ll put down a good grade on this one, although I don’t exactly feel improved lately. Recent actions harmed others emotionally and I feel badly about that. I am sorry.
Since starting this space almost five years ago, it’s been a kind of beacon, like the SETI project portrayed in Carl Sagan’s “Contact.” In the movie, Jodie Foster plays Ellie Arroway, an explorer of the cosmos dedicated to searching for life “out there.” Aside from her core team, most thought her efforts to communicate with extraterrestrial life wasteful and ultimately in vain, like the Stones song. She kept listening for something likely initiated long ago, and one night while cupped in headphones under a black night blanketing a canyon, life answered. Ellie was jolted and sped off to erase all possibility that the “contact” was false. Was it some CIA thing, a satellite, some alien doing a drink ‘n dial? It wasn’t.
Well, the space-shit really hit the fan after that and once translations were achieved and plans decoded, Eli faced the decision of whether to take the trip to the unknown in a machine designed by the unknown, but she really didn’t have a choice. [Commercial interruption: This new Built to Spill record is freakin’ crazy and ends with “Tomorrow,” a song now melting myPod…] Ellie had to go. She was scared and excited, but faced losing her love interest, a religious character played by that guy who can’t stand up straight. See, given the space-time continuum and traveling faster than the speed of light, leaning boy would likely be dead of old age once Ellie returned. None of the fear or prospects of losing mattered. Ellie had to go. After years of SETI work and then exacting preparation of the machine, she launched into the unknown. She had no sense of time, but it seemed like hours… 12? 28? 51? She had no idea, but when she returned it turns out the entire trip took just 7 seconds… [See scientific discourse on time-travel above.] Yeah, time really flies when you face is blurred because you’re being shot down a wormhole designed by non-locals. Anyway, doubters railed and Ellie’s story was squelched, but she knew the truth of it… Although an atheist, she had faith what happened to her was real.
Years later an older and content Ellie was speaking to school children out under brilliant sunshine shimmering off the SETI radio dishes. One child asked her, “Is there life out there?” “Well, I don’t know,” answered Ellie with a smile, “but it sure seems like a big waste of space if there isn’t.”