Having Hope

My Daddy once told me that unless a man had something useful to say, he should keep his mouth shut. As most of you realize if you know me, or have read my writing it’s obvious that I should keep my mouth shut most of the time. I just can’t help it though, useful or not I have to say what I think.

What I am opening my mouth (or keyboard literally) to talk about today is hope. That’s right, hope. I have to have it. It has to be there, like a piece of driftwood in the vast ocean when you are drowning. Something to grab hold of and stay afloat. My hope is for the future. The future in which I will be missing, but my children and grandchildren and whatever descendants that I may be blessed with (who will never know I existed,) will know.

Right now, it kind of looks bleak, and that is why I have to have hope. I don’t think there is any way that the members of my generation, the baby boomers, can fix the mess that we are in now. It’s not just one mess, but MANY different messes going on simultaneously which make things so complex.

There are the changing demographics of the entire world. People of different races and cultures are traveling far and wide in this day and age and settling in places their ancestors would never have imagined. As they do this, they become familiar with each other and one thing leads to another and you have relationships being built between these members of different races and cultures. Some still try to stick with their own cultures, but inevitably I believe will fail. The children of the future will all probably look like Tiger Woods and Mariah Carey. I think at some point there won’t be any black, yellow, red and white anymore. There will be one color and one international culture at some point. I don’t know how far in the future that this may occur, and I don’t know if mankind can keep from destroying each other first with nuclear weapons but if they can then that’s one thing I think will happen. It will be a huge challenge for our descendants who are at the “transitional” stage. (Or maybe that’s where we ARE now?) It could well be that the future inhabitants of this planet will “ease” into this situation so gradually that no one will ever know it’s happening until it’s upon them. I don’t think it will be a bad thing either. One of things that continually breeds discontent, distrust and war is the difference between people’s race and culture. If there IS not difference then they will have to find something else to fight about. Maybe they won’t be able to.

There is the quickly changing face of technology. I would have NEVER in my wildest dreams as a child imagined the world as it is today. There have been so many advances in the last 50 years that it makes the 1950’s seem like the Stone Ages. What we take for granted every day now, would have seemed like a trick of magic back then. Computers will continue to advance and now that robotics IS actually taking off like Isaac Asimov thought it would, our descendants can look forward to a world where the physical part of living will become easier and easier.

There will be issues that come up, ethical issues, which will challenge the very core of the morals of our society. What about a computer program that can store the “essence” of a person on a program, and come up with a “virtual” person who is exactly like the person who is dying. Anyone ever seen the movie “Freejack” with old Mick Jagger? That’s science fiction still, BUT so was Jules Verne back in the late 19th century. It may not be that a person’s “essence” can be stored on a computer and then put back into another person’s body. I am not sure it will ever get to that point. BUT to create a “virtual” person with the knowledge and character of a real live person is but a few steps away from becoming a reality. You can “store” Grandma or Grandpa on the handy dandy virtual person program, and pull them up to talk to any time you want. How would you like that? Kind of a spooky thought isn’t it? Yet, right now people who play the high tech computer games that generate “characters” to play through (the avatar type games) are already interacting in a very close knit way with these “quasi-people.” You can give them character traits, physical characteristics, and other things which make them “almost” seem human. It’s only a few steps away until you can do the same thing with your dear Uncle Bob, believe me. Soulless, yes. Interaction there will be. There could also be a use for this type of program to reduce overpopulation, in that people who are not allowed, or don’t want to have a “real” live child, can have a virtual child which they can “raise” from a baby all the way up through adulthood. The cost would be quite a bit cheaper to raise this type of “child” too.

Medically speaking, the people who can make it 20 or 30 more years are likely to be able to live practically as long as they want. With the research and discoveries in genetics that are now taking place, it won’t be long until the genes that cause “aging” as we know it, will be discovered and neutralized. People who are well off enough financially will be able to benefit from this expensive technology and beat “the system” Dick Cheney may actually still be here in the year 2100! Hmmm…?

I think that many diseases which afflict people such as cancer, heart disease, and all the big killers will be beaten. People will have to be run over by a Fire Truck in order to die. That’s about the only thing which will do it. However, I am sure there will be a lot of volunteers to be “uploaded” into the computer program which I mentioned in the previous paragraph. After all, who REALLY wants to live forever? And you probably will still have the old aches and pains that won’t go away. (Maybe not, they may have something for that too) Besides, you might be able to do things on that computer program you could NEVER do in real life, like fight dragons, or fly. That would be a hoot, right?

I wonder if people will still be able to go out and have a juicy steak or a lobster, or if everyone will have to eat those little pills like the one that Willy Wonka invented that turned Violet, well…purple I guess. Hopefully, he will have perfected them by then and we won’t have to go somewhere and have the juice squeeze out of us.

I kind of wonder too if space travel will advance to the point where we will be actually sending people out on missions to other galaxies. Will the episodes of Star Trek, The Next Generation be a reality or a near reality at least? If we can tear enough money away from the government’s efforts at exterminating people in other countries, we may be able to give some of it back to the space program and find out!

Our Amazing Planet

I heard on the radio last week about a scientist who was going around the Oceans of the world, and taking samples of the water and testing it for microorganisms. Turns out, he was finding thousands of new ones that nobody knew existed. (I have simplified this, if you want to read the complicated version go to NPR.org) You would probably not really be surprised by that, but at about the same time they announced they had discovered a new breed of big cat in the jungles of Borneo…a new kind of Leopard! Amazing!

If you can think about life itself, and you are NOT amazed, then I think something is wrong. I never CEASE to be amazed every day, and every night by the life all around me on this planet. My curiosity about whether or not there is life like what we have in other parts of the Universe is so high! I wish there was a way to find out.

To think that we live on a planet that abounds with SO much life, all the way from those tiny microorganisms to the beautiful deep jungle Leopards is mind boggling. We read and hear about how life IS endangered and will BE endangered by such things as human overpopulation, wars, Global warming, threats from interstellar disasters such a huge meteors and comets…and it sometimes makes it seem as if all life is going to cease to exist. But, I don’t think so. I think this planet; this Mother Earth is one of a kind.

I think that if we could somehow look a billion years into the future of our planet that there would still be life here. Life IS fragile, but for some reason THIS particular planet was created to foster and nurture life, like no other one. (That we know of anyway)

So, I think that life will find a way. I hope that it is HUMAN life that continues to find a way. I pray that we can grow past the point where we have to solve our problems through war, murder and all other types of bad ways that humanity has invented over the past ever how many thousands of years. If we can do this… perhaps when that billion year point comes, WE will be reaching out to those other stars and galaxies that we stand in awe of every night when we look up into the sky and WE can bring peaceful life to those places that don’t already have it.

That would be a wonderful thing wouldn’t it?

My Pet Squirrel

THE DAY THE SQUIRREL WENT BERSERK

Grandpa chopped down an old rotten Elm tree which was near the edge of his drive. The first frost had already fallen and it was a late September day, if my memory serves me right. The year was 1960 and I was nearing my tenth birthday. I was standing up on the front porch and watched as the big old tree fell down from a precisely placed last strike of the ax from Grandpa. There were no chain saws around back then, just the two person cross cut saw which my Dad had helped Grandpa with, and his sharp ax. That tree was going to become fodder for the old iron wood burning stove with the two eyes on top. That huge old glutton of wooden food could take five or six big logs and then turn orange red on the outside as it burned blazing hot in my Grandparent’s living room. You dare not touch it when it was freshly stoked or you would suffer a nasty burn. All of us grandchildren learned from an early age “not to touch the stove”

The tree came down and I noticed my Dad peering curiously into one of the sections of the tree and then reaching in and picking something up. He looked up at the porch and hollered for me to come down there. I came running and was amazed to see Dad holding a little squirming furry bundle. It was a baby squirrel. He gave it to me and told me to hold onto the squirmy little rodent. It appeared to be about half grown, and was pretty ambulatory and quite unhappy to have literally “fallen” into it’s current situation. Grandma happened to have a tall cardboard box at the house, so I ran up and put the little fur ball into it. It was too tiny to jump out the top, and so there it stayed in its first home away from its family. We were at my Grandparent’s house for a few more days and I played with that squirrel for hours every day. Much to my Grandpa and Dad’s surprise, the squirrel started to “tame up” and actually began to eat a variety of foods, including left over cornbread. Its little tummy would poke out after every meal.

On the way home in the car, I let the little rascal climb around inside my shirt. He didn’t offer to bite me, but those sharp little claws did more than just tickle on a couple of occasions.

Once we got him home, Dad acquired a metal cage from somebody. It was like a small chicken coop and the only way to keep the squirrel in securely was with a stretch spring which Daddy had gotten from the mill. That spring had to be pulled tight and latched on one of the crossbars of the cage every time we got the little rascal in and out of the cage. He always loved to run around inside my shirt and as the weeks went by, he learned to do it with just a tickle and without using those sharp little claws to “dig in” and hurt.

As he matured, our little pet gray squirrel became a true track star. He would run all over the house, up and down the furniture and jumping onto the light fixtures much to my Mom’s consternation. He was pretty tame with me, but he began to bite anyone else who tried to feed him. I got really attached to the little critter but it became apparent to even my ten year old self that he wasn’t really a happy camper. Wild animals like this just are not meant to be kept in a cage.

The end of his tenure at our house came abruptly. I was trying to hook the sharp ended spring into its place on the cage one day, and it slipped and raked across the meaty part of my hand causing a nasty cut. I hollered and bled for a while and Mom decided, against my protests that my furry friend had to go.

My Dad gave the squirrel and the cage to one of my cousins. A couple of months later Dad told me that the little feller had choked on a piece of orange (yep…it like fruit) and had died. I was heartbroken for a few days, but as children will do, I soon forgot my pet squirrel and started thinking about baseball cards, or comic books, or some other childish thing.

I have always liked squirrels since then, even though I know they are pesky little creatures who like to gobble up my bird food. I don’t begrudge them their bite though because I know those little dudes are voracious eaters. I look out the window at them jumping around like acrobats and I can sometimes still feel a little tickle inside my shirt. It was a short but worthwhile relationship between a nerdy kid and a furry rodent.

Fall- As a Child

I recall as a child, the Fall was my favorite season of the year. It’s entrancing beauty, the just right temperatures, the first fresh frost of the year, which made the ‘skeeters and other bugs disappear and most of all, fall as a prelude to the wonderful holiday season.

I remember the Halloweens when we could go house to house and never worry about having to check our candy….except for this one old lady who lived over on sixth street. She would hand out marshmallows with hot peppers stuck down in them! We always just threw them away, and sometimes we would come back and throw a roll of toilet paper around in her yard.

The peace officers patrolled the town and just kept an eye out to make sure nobody was throwing eggs at cars or houses. They didn’t have to worry very much about somebody shooting at them, or having to shoot somebody. The peace officers carried guns, but they seldom ever saw use.

Onward we went from the wonderful candy collecting day to Thanksgiving with Macy’s parade, and a ton of roasted turkey. Most of the time here in the south the dressing was “pan” made. I never even had any stuffing in a turkey until after Paula and I were married. It was a great day. Out of school for a long weekend, and lots of football games. Then on from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

I don’t have time to write all the things I would like to about that wonderful season, perhaps one day soon I will.

I think back now, over these 66 years. My memory is a little spotty, but still good. I think how much I have enjoyed all of the Autumns I have lived. I think how much I have loved all the people who I am so close to, who are on this wonderful journey with me through life.

I think our lives and the way we live them are like reflecting pools. We see in others the good we want to see in ourselves…the good we have in ourselves, and we act accordingly with love. Either that, or we look at others and see reflected back the hatred or dislike that we feel for ourselves, and act accordingly with something which is less than love.

I damn sure wish I could wave a magic wand and have everyone feel the love for life, the love for my family and my few friends, which I feel when the first cold breeze of Autumn rolls in….I wish…

I know I can’t, and I never will be able to do so. I cannot express myself well enough to change the things about myself I badly need to change, but…at least I can see those things and realize them. If I have a problem with changing myself, how can I impose my imperfect will, or my imperfect opinions on other people? That would be a sign of self righteousness which it is very too late in life to try and enter into.

Enjoy the first cold breezes of Autumn tomorrow. Try to show some love. I’m going to try, and that’s all I can do.