Cyber Corpse 2
Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
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Your POV Or Mine
by Frederick Wm. Zackel

"Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come? What was my destination? These questions continually recurred, but I was unable to resolve them."

-Frankenstein's Monster speaks for us all.


Look at these dots:

What do you think you see?

No, not the Big Dipper.

That is just dots on a page.

The Big Dipper is a constellation that apparently fits the pattern of a long-handled cup. Runaway slaves on the American Underground Railroad called it "the Drinking Gourd" because the two "pointer" stars will show you Polaris, the North Star. Follow the Drinking Gourd and cross the river and you were in Ohio and safe!

The Big Dipper constellation is part of Ursa Major, part of the Great Bear Constellation, and what stories are we retelling each time we say that? The Iroquois Indians said the Great Bear is chased every season by hunters. Their arrows Strike the Great Bear; he bleeds; the blood flows from the Big Dipper onto the trees of autumn, turning the leaves red and orange.

Throughout Western Europe for a thousand years it was called Charles' Wain, while it is a corruption of "churl's wagon." A "churl" was a peasant, a farmer, and the Big Dipper looks like a farmer's wagon.

Dante looked up in the sky and wrote in his Divine Comedy that Charles' Wain was a symbol for the Holy Roman Church. Saint Francis of Assisi was one wheel driving the Church, while Saint Dominic (who energized the Inquisition) was the other wheel.

A constellation is a pattern arbitrarily imposed upon a random collection of stars. We call it a constellation because we "see" a pattern within it, a "design" within, a "story" within. As James Joyce said about his own education, "I have learnt to arrange things in such a way that they become easy to survey and judge."

A constellation is an illusion. The Big Dipper, for instance, will have disappeared in 100,000 years.

Lawrence Durrell in Balthazar wrote, "We live by selected fictions."

Constellations are "selected fictions." Those familiar patterns are a product of earthly perspective. They are apparent constructions. What you select reveals your values and priorities.

Actually, the seven bright stars that make up Ursa Major occupy a smallish Chunk of space, a cube of space that is six parsecs wide by ten parsecs wide. To Human minds, they are "The Big Dipper" or "Ursa Major" or . . . But there are five hundred "lights" visible within that cluster of space, and most of them are galaxies. On a good night an amateur astronomer with a decent telescope can see two hundred of them.

That the stars of Ursa Major can point toward the North Star is as relative (that is, as "arbitrary") as modern physics has been since Albert Einstein first put pen in hand.

Stars and other cosmic objects are randomly situated in the vast emptiness of space. On a good night an amateur astronomer with a decent telescope can see 10,000 galaxies.

We crave order. We grasp at straws, or even astrology, for the stars might hold the answers to our destiny.

To the ancient Egyptians, the stars in the heavens were the Imperishables. From any cosmic standpoint, it is a remarkable arrogance to assume that these Stellar objects and their relative positioning were meant solely to read in these Terra-centric ways.

From those same cosmic standpoints, the dervish's words to Candide and his friends reverberate most powerfully: What does the captain of the galleon care about the rats in the belly of the ship?

Voltaire was actually not alone. The first Chinese Wang Ch'ung thought Heaven could not be concerned with a human. He thought Heaven saw a human as an ant in a crack or as a flea on a robe. In Candide, one is also reminded of the Chinese creation myth of P'an-ku. When P'an-ku dies, after having divided heaven and earth with an ax, his body parts form the rest of the universe. Humans and animals are formed from his body lice.


Stories breed faith in a repeatable universe. If it happened once, it will happen again and again. Hey, the sun came up yesterday, it came up this morning, and it'll come up tomorrow.

To the ancient Chinese, life was cyclical, as befits a culture centered around agriculture and seasonal changes. The Sixties slogan "What goes around comes around" is such a cyclical point of view of Life, the Universe, and everything.

To the Christian point of view, Life is not fair. The implication is that a conclusion is coming, a Judgment Day, when all things will be "made" fair.

To some, there is not cause and effect. This "life" is an unfolding of continuity and connection.

Common sense is what fits the available facts. It is convenient models that fit the observable facts. Common sense offers a unified perspective. And what violates common sense is terribly wrong and must be put right.

Problem is, common sense can become a tyrant. Common sense can become dogma. Albert Einstein said, "Common sense is the deposit of prejudice laid down in the mind before the age of eighteen."


Loyalty oaths are no laughing matter and they serve specific purposes. They are precisely targeted to nab certain points of views that are opposed to them.

During the McCarthy era, communist spies would have no qualms about signing loyalty oaths; their goal was to infiltrate the organization.

Loyalty oaths are designed to publicly identify those individuals whose scruples would not let them sign on to the proscribed loyalties. That is, those individuals who have principles "higher" than the group's common denominator beliefs need to be identified and then selected out.

Some groups cannot function as they see their function is without at least the tacit consent of every individual in that group.

Tacit consent does not mean blind obedience, of course. One is not betrayed by one's enemies, but one's family, friends, and loved ones. Groups are not betrayed by their enemies, but from within. Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and he is us." J. Edgar Hoover never stopped squeaking about "the enemy within." (Although he was disingenuous when he named them.)

Of course the Romans had a saying about tacit consent. "Consensus facit legem." General consent makes law.

Tacit consent. In December, 1995, the government of Italy passed a law that said all Italians over the age of sixteen will be assumed to have given their "tacit consent" for their organs are to be used for transplant following death unless specifically they state otherwise. This is similar to what other European countries--Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria, for instance, already have on the books.


The writer writes.

No writer writes the same book someone else has written. After all, it's been done, right? Common sense tells us that. Writers, however, do write in opposition to other writers. "He got it wrong; I'm gonna tell it right."

Texts are written in opposition to other texts, too. They are written in opposition to the master narrative, too.

But freedom of speech, as is said nowadays, is actually freedom to publish. If you are denied publication, you are denied freedom to speak. The master narrative (i.e., the Establishment) decides what gets published.

We don't produce the master narrative; it produces us.

If you call the master narrative "ideology," you then get: "We don't produce ideology; ideology produces us."

When you read a text, ask yourself how successful is the hero. Does he defeat all his enemies? Who are his enemies? What is "the success ethic" the hero embodies?

The writer writes what s/he wants to read.

Okay. Let's play reverse psychology.

What is covered up here?


A story can become privileged above all others. A group of stories can become so privileged that they form a canon of stories. A canon become privileged above all others. Over time it may even calcify.

Master Narratives are no different.

Ptolemy's scheme for the Cosmos ruled for a thousand years. With Ptolemy's charts by his side, Christopher Columbus collided with the Americas. Ptolemy underestimated the circumference of the earth. The Chinese, however, knew the earth was flat.

Nicolas Copernicus wrote his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium or The Revolution of the Heavenly Orbs in 1543. His heliocentric view of the universe posited our sun as the center of the universe. Placing the sun at the center of heaven thus created the Scientific Revolution.

Johannes Kepler defended Copernicus' theories after his death by saying Copernicus was only "philosophizing" and "not composing a myth." Martin Luther, on the other hand, pointed out that "upstart astrologer" Copernicus was obviously "a fool." After all, Luther pointed out, "Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth," at the battle for Jericho.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was stifled by Pope Urban VIII more in a response to the Protestant Reformation than for threatening orthodoxy. Some clergy refused to look through his telescope because they refused to have their beliefs destroyed. We forget he was punished by the Church for believing that the sun was the immobile center of the universe. We forget he too was wrong. The sun isn't the center of the universe.

By the same token, the traditional Japanese scholars had no problem with Copernicus' heliocentric universe. They believed in the Sungod, and of course He was the center of the universe.

The authorities (whoever they may be) have always had a vested interest in traditional values. Their continuance in office is always directly related to accepted points of view. The Hippocratic oath's main purpose is to guard the physician's secrets from the paying public.

For most of the last twenty centuries Christian authorities hid behind Latin, while the lower classes spoke the vernacular. Only those who spoke Latin could even dream of attending college. The lower classes were kept from bettering themselves because college was impossible without a knowledge of Latin. The lectures were given only in Latin. Our culture's basic master-slave relationship is even visible here: We talk of studying "liberal arts," and that comes from the Latin word "liberi," or "free man." The word "vernacular" comes from the Latin word "vernaculus" which in turn comes from "verna," and means "a home-born slave."

Copernicus received the first copy of his book on his deathbed. The Roman church "forgave" him of his sin and lifted its "ban" on his book in 1835. At that same moment in 1835 the Church also lifted its "ban" on Galileo Galilei's work. Galileo would not be "forgiven" until 1979.


Before Copernicus, the center of the earth was the center of the universe. He changed the coordinate system. After Einstein, all coordinate systems are suddenly equally good.

Imagine the proton. If the atom is the universe, the proton is the center of that universe. In the Ptolemaic or geocentric theory of the universe, the earth is the center of the universe.

Perhaps our conception of the atomic structure itself is wrong, itself "a selected fiction" that, while convenient and comfortable for us and our beliefs, bares no resemblance to its actual structure. Perhaps we are incapable of imagining any atomic structure EXCEPT one having some proton at the center of the universe.


Electrons wander on the margins of the atom. Those on the margins suffer the most; they have the least to gain and the most to lose. Loyalty to the center of the Story (i.e., the "author-ities") is at its weakest here on the margins.

Rahab was a whore who lived and worked within the walls of Jericho itself. Her identity was imposed upon her by her society and its Master Story. That she was positioned by her society and its Master Story within the actual mud walls of Jericho tells us she lived on the margins.

When "Joshua fit the battle of Jericho," he won.

"And the walls came tumblin' down."

Dante in his Divine Comedy places Rahab the Whore in Heaven, after all she did for Joshua.


In the introductory moments of the movie Star Wars, Luke Skywalker grouses about his home planet, saying, "If there is a center to the universe, this is the furthest from it."

There are 100 billion galaxies. Each has on the average 100 billion stars. The site of the Big Bang was the Center of the Universe. As the universe expands, as all stellar objects move away from each other, the "center" shifts. The center does not hold.

Seen from the perspective of 100 billion galaxies, that Yahweh would pick an ordinary galaxy within an ordinary super cluster of galaxies, that He would travel out to an ordinary spiral arm of that galaxy and pick a rather ordinary solar system, and then tag a clan of seminomadics on the margins of a proto-agricultural society and call them His Chosen People . . .

Then considering that these Jews get the back of History's Hand for twenty centuries, and that this assault is then followed by the Nazi Holocaust where six million Jews are deliberately murdered because they are God's Chosen People. . .

Couldn't the Touch have been on some other peoples?


All roads led to Rome.

Islam requires all mosques face Mecca.

Who sits at the center of your universe?

The human history has been a history of man taking his rightful place in the universe. Unfortunately humanity seems to have assumed it sits at the head of the table. We can read the words of Jesus Christ--"He would be first shall be last; he who shall be last shall be first"--as a warning.

Yet, we must also point out that in 1633 Galileo Galilei was forced by the Roman Catholic Inquisition to repudiate the Copernican conception that the solar system has the sun and not the earth at its center.

Copernicus kicked man out of the center of the universe, a fictional point of view held for almost twenty centuries. It would take another hundred years for the proof to be accepted.

One of the curious spin-offs of Copernican theory was that not just Heaven, but Hell also had to move elsewhere. One theologian in 1714 said Hell was located in the center of the sun! For many Nineteenth century wags, Hell was not just in London, but the city itself.

Then came Johannes Kepler's clockwork universe. Kepler may have been the earliest to suggest "the celestial machine is not so much of a divine organization but rather a clockwork" in 1600. But Isaac Newton (with his elliptical orbits) and Descartes also agreed with the clockwork universe.

Lewis Mumford said the clock was the first automatic machine and as such it foreshadowed the dictatorship of the machine over man. It did a worse number on God.

The God Kiumbi is the Supreme Being in the northern half of East Africa; he is continuously creating anew. He has work today that must be done. He'll be here tomorrow and the next day.

In our clockwork universe, God is the perfect clockmaker. Once He set the universe ticking in its divine motion, He left it alone, and it had a mechanical life of its own. The universe runs like a clock because its internal working are governed by universal rules for all time. God's job was done. He stepped back. He is still receding.

Once you synchronize your watches, time is money.

Be on time.

T. S. Eliot's "Timekept City" is too secular. There is no time for God within its time and space. Who needs him now?

A cosmic year is 225 million years, and that's how long it takes our sun to circle the Milky Way once.

We want to know how the universe is put together. We reject Chaos. We demand design. We want a beginning, a middle and an end.

To the Tu'chueh, the Turkish peoples who settled in Mongolia from the Fourth century to the Tenth, the universe came in many levels. The bottom nine were the underworld, and the top seventeen form the realm of light, or heaven. Humanity sits between heaven and hell for the Blue Turks, too. They called themselves the Blue Turks, or Kok Turk, and they were the representatives of the blue sky here on earth. The Winnebago Indians of Southern Wisconsin, for instance, also had a layered universe. And how different are these from Dante's The Divine Comedy's division of heaven and hell in concentric circles?


In the beginning was the Word. But God is silent; He keeps receding like a hairline or a glacier. We chase Him, but we can't catch Him.

Entropy leads to the end of the universe. The last of our cosmos will be a cold hissing sound, like a television set when no station is sending its signal, and it will be transmitted forever. Think of the flat line of a heart monitor. And isn't that a scary way to contemplate eternity?

The French poet Charles Baudelaire said about the devil, "Few believe. But his smell is everywhere."

On the contrary, from the vantage point of 100 billion galaxies, a believer could argue that the devil is being punished for his arrogance and his insolence by being sent to "this prison earth." Living among us may be living in hell.


Lie on your back south of the equator and stare into the stars after midnight . . . and (probably) you are facing the center of the Milky Way galaxy. If you dig your nails into the earth and scream, you have now discovered what a bug on the windshield feels like.

There are 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone. There are "ten to the 22nd power" stars in the known universe.

Perspective is everything. Back in 1608 the Dutch tried keeping the newly invented telescope a state secret. Apollo 8 was the first to glimpse the full view of planet Earth. Yet, from space, the planet Earth has no "central" focal point.

In 1591 a Dominican monk, Giordano Bruno, wrote "De immenso et innumeabilis seu de universo et mundis," which is more lyrical in Latin than English. Three years later he came out in public support of the Copernican point of view on the universe and was promptly seized by the Vatican. He was found guilty of apostasy (that is, guilty of the renunciation of his religion) because he believed (among other errors) that there were in this "infinite" universe "countless suns" around which revolved "numberless earths no worse than this one and no less inhabited." In 1600 Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in Rome.

I cannot forgive, but I can understand the Holy Office of the Church (AKA the Inquisition) trying to cope with the impact of Bruno's words. In the face of a thousand million stars in the average galaxy, and a thousand million galaxies in the known universe, I too find it difficult imagining a personal god who knows and cares about me and my particular destiny.

The French mathematician Blaise Pascal contemplated Bruno's words and wrote, "The eternal silence of those infinite spaces strikes me with terror." Pascal became a lifelong and passionate Christian . . . after he deliberately and consciously theorized that believing in God was better than being an atheist since no one will know for sure until death and because the rewards are infinite in heaven if there is a God.

A few years later Galileo Galilei was silenced by the same Cardinal Roberto Bellarmine as Giordano Bruno. Not until 1737 was Galileo Galilei finally accorded a Christian burial. Not until 1992 was he absolved of his heresy by the Church.

Giordano Bruno's poetic voice is missed. We should name a space shuttle after him. Or at least name a starship cousin to the Enterprise.


Actually, we earthlings are insignificant. The Milky Way is simply one of a hundred billion galaxies. We sit out on the edge of one of its arms, the Orion Arm, and the center of our galaxy is thirty thousand lights years away. Our sun circles the center every 220 million years. One astrophysical joke says that Earth is the Cleveland of the Milky Way. I live twenty-five miles south of Toledo, surrounded by cornfields. Imagine my dismay.

The center of our galaxy bulges; most of it appears to be older stars, some perhaps as old as the universe itself. Dust clouds obscure the center. Some physicists have suggested there is a massive black hole at the center that is slowly "eating" our galaxy.

Voltaire's rats in the bilge are nearer their Creator than we are in our superstring cosmos.

The television syndicated series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine posits humanity's importance by placing it as the operator of a reststop on a wormhole's off-ramps near the back waters of our galaxy. The show struggled in the ratings. We don't like seeing Humanity's Place in the Universe reduced to Gas Jockey and Company.


The Spielberg movie E. T. : The Extra-terrestrial was the most successful movie ever made for a dozen-odd years, until it was displaced from the top of the heap by Spielberg's Jurassic Park.

The movie Jurassic Park is more than a remake of Frankenstein, more than a remake of Godzilla, more than a variation on St. George slaying the Dragon. The movie is instructive. Once Dinosaurs ruled the world. Now Man rules the world.

To recreate "those earlier masters of the universe" and place them in a closed system with us as visitors to their zoo, then break the zoo open and see how we survive and escape is truly a remarkable conceit.

Jurassic Park posits dinosaurs in direct confrontation with the modern world. Once dinosaurs were King of the Hill, the proton at the center of the nucleus. Now, humanity is the King, the proton at the center. Humanity wants to view what else stood at the center and how humanity would fare up against it in a contest.

We're so vain . . .

We probably think this cosmos's about us!

A terrifying sidebar to the story exists. If evolution is self-generating, if evolution proceeds in a self-regulating pattern, if dinosaurs are a natural step in that evolutionary progression, and if it took an asteroid five miles in diameter to wipe the dinosaurs out--

In a universe that looks like it might be filled with hundreds of millions of planets capable of evolving life, are the majority of those planets Jurassic Parks filled to the gunwales with dinosaurs evolving?

Given enough time, those dinosaurs would have evolved into sentient beings who, given enough time, could learn to manipulate their environment. Given enough time, those dinosaur sentients could reach for the stars.

Imagine E.T., The Raptor!

The child's voice: "They're here!"


Our Master Narrative drives us. Maybe not deliberately or consciously, but perhaps to aid our progress.

Vectors lie at the heart of our view of the cosmos.

In vector mathematics, a vector is magnitude plus direction. (Magnitude is a length, a distance.) Vector math says no vector is inevitable, that other vectors can add or subtract elements, and thus alter the first vector. Outside forces can displace our vectors, cause us to stray from the course we think we're on.

I am just a single point on the vector of America's Master Story. I am merely noticing some coordinates, plotting some points of our location in space and time.

My goal is to cluster some events, some concepts, some notions, some points of view, and some curiosities, and possibly suggest that these clusters should create new links with each other.

In essence, I hope to show our point of view, our Master Story, as a vector. To show where our Master Story is and how fast it's going. That what we call history is the sheer mass of our Master Story over a period of time.

I do not doubt that I may be wrong in many of my plotting. But perhaps my chartings can be of service to the Master Story.

Perhaps we can notice the path of our drifting vessel. Perhaps we can see how we've been blown by the winds. Perhaps we can fashion a rudder or some sails. Perhaps we can improve our navigation.

There are forces to be reckoned with.


Max Planck pointed out: "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents but because its opponents die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

Deism became popular among the English and their colonies after 1711. In briefest terms, deism states that, since the clockwork universe works so well, God set it into motion and must exist. Therefore, there's no need for formal religious exercise. Nowadays less than 4 percent of Great Britain actively participate in the state religious services.

Thus, God died in the Eighteenth century, in the Age of Reason. Some, like Albert Camus, say God died with Louis XVI in the French revolution. I think God died much earlier with the publication of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels.

Gulliver's Travels parallels Dante's journey in The Divine Comedy, but it is a journey through a cosmos without God. We see men who are littler than us and men who are bigger than us. In the Third Book we see an Earth where Reason as Science is exalted, and in the Fourth Book we see a Heaven without God. There is no God in the universe of the Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos, no Baptism and only Original Sin, and Lemuel Gulliver finds no escape when he sails away in a canoe made from Yahoo skins. That's why he ends his days desperately struggling for his sanity in a universe Edvard Munch visualized. The Holocaust with its lampshades of human skin and its gold bars from human mouths was prophesied by the Great Dean of Saint Patrick's.

By the same token, the Age of Reason never had a chance. Right from the beginning it was sabotaged by Gulliver's Travels. Then it was undermined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge's dreams of Mariners and Mongols and lesbian vampires. Poe drove a stake through its heart, then wandered off, while Reason itself writhed and died in a delirium.

The Ancient Mariner wears an albatross around his neck. Earlier, he watched it fly past his ship; "it was an immortal soul." And he killed it with an arrow in the heart, just as secular humanism has bumped off God Himself. Just as superstitions still weigh us down, still mock our wills and our words, still curse us, so too a ghost haunts us. The word "ghost" goes back to the Old English "gaste," which means "soul, spirit or demon," all of which is akin to the German "geist," which has an Indo-European base "gheizd-," which meant "to be excited or frightened," but all of these trace back to the Sanskrit word "hed," which means to be angry. Ghosts are angry; they resist being repressed. They want revenge.

A ghost is the secular expression of an immortal soul. The spin doctors tried their best. But a ghost haunts us like a conscience. It is a guilty conscience. And what is repressed most severely boomerangs back to haunt us.

The ghost of God Himself is not easily exorcised. He is a jealous god, too. He will be avenged.

When God died, so did the Devil.

We cannot blame the Holocaust on him.


Back in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth centuries, Europeans played with a fictional pattern to show each of us our place in the Great Scheme of Things. Each of us have our own roles to play, and collectively the human race is a shipload of individuals all heading towards the Promised Land. Some of us are natural leaders, and thus we correspond to the Captain of the Ship. Some of us are there to help guide all of us, and we correspond to the Navigator. Some of us are Men and Women of Science, and our duty is to seek to improve the lives of all of us.

Some of us represent Wealth, and some of us the Married State. Some of us are Youth, and some of us represent Pleasure.

Gulliver, for instance, is a surgeon and then a ship's captain on his trips, and thus Swift intends to show us how Gulliver loses his way on his Journey through Life. His name "Gulliver" itself shows us how Gullible he is and makes his journey more meaningful for us. In a sense, we "see" more clearly how he has lost his way.

The allegory still works. We still find interest in that same story set-up. Think of . . . Gilligan's Island. It's the story of the Minnow and its castaways. Gilligan the navigator, the Captain, the Movie Star, the Millionaire and His Wife, the Professor and the Virgin Maryanne.

Kidding the series is easy. But its 98 episodes are the most viewed TV series in the history of the world. We still should ask ourselves why this particular story appealed to its audience. Why was it needed?

Gilligan and Gulliver. The stories are different, but the allegory is still framed the same. What does the framework offer us?

Gilligan's Island is the most syndicated TV show in history. More episodes of it have been seen by more people than any other television show. Yet most fans of the show would tell you that the most disappointing moments were those moments when the castaways were rescued and how their lives were changed after rescue. The audience cared about the characters because they were lost in time and space, because they were removed from the tyranny of Time's Arrow. Once rescued, the castaways became like the rest of us and almost instantly disappeared into the collective "us." In the final Return to Gilligan's Island, the characters recognized their special place in fiction's pantheon and moved back to the island and have not been heard from since.


The ancient Greek philosopher Anaxagoras was nearly killed by his fellow countrymen for claiming that the moon was inert matter. The moon has always had great story-value. It has thoroughly invested itself in our Master Story. We cannot conceive of it not being a part of our lives. It is an integral part of the human consciousness. It represents magic and romance and the secrets of the night. It may be the earliest primal memory our species has. Saying it is a rock kills the thrill for the rest of us.

But the moon has turned out to be a dusty rock. Like the famous apples of Sodom and Gomorrah, the moon which has taunted and tantalized us is no paradise.

Is that dust in our mouths? Is that the taste of ashes?

We raced the Soviet Union to the moon, and once we got there, we (as a culture) sat amazed and stunned by the real meaning of the concept "distance." The moon was "far away."

We made a few more missions, but mostly we sat on our haunches and wondered if we really wanted to rush back. Neil Armstrong's famous quote, "One small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind," suddenly told us how little the distance we actually had come and how far God's Covenant with us (as we perceived it) extends.

But the Challenger disaster made us realize there was no need to rush out there, that being in a hurry was a shortcut to disaster, that we should think this whole thing over and go step by step into the Greatest Unknown This Side of Death.

A Chinese saying that's as popular in America as any bumper sticker says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We all realize how important that first step was. But one corollary we've since discovered from the space program is that a single step is just a single step, that a thousand miles still stretches out ahead of us, and that we have a long, strange trip ahead.

But let us remember: China's Great Withdrawal in the 1450s said, be sensible, stay home, take care of domestic problems. (Those domestic problems were water projects, by the way. Water conservation projects, farmers' irrigation, dam projects, Corps of Engineer stuff.) Because the decision was left up to the bureaucrats, China never had its Great Adventure, its time of Great Discovery.

We have taken a single step. What stretches ahead of us (for all intents and purposes) is still a journey of a thousand miles. The next true quantum leap is leaving our own solar system.

Recently a photograph of the Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin working with his personal slide rule in orbit was used in connection with an international auction of Soviet Space Paraphernalia. Unless you personally have used a slide rule, you cannot appreciate how remarkable the courage needed to trust splashdown to a slide rule. Thirty years after Gargarin's magical mystery trip into space, my children's Sega system had more space-age technology than Gargarin's entire capsule. You should see their playtoys now.

Perhaps our solar system exists as our testing area for robotics, aerospace technology, our computers, whatever. Reaching the stars may be a dream that only the global village of humanity can accomplish. No single superpower can go it alone.


Apollo 8 was the first to glimpse the full view of planet Earth. The photographs that were taken then are the most important artifacts all of Humanity has ever acquired on its collective journey through Time and Space. For the first time in history we are looking at ourselves.

We should treasure them above all others.


In Larry Krasden's Grand Canyon, the character played by Kevin Klein gazes out over the Grand Canyon, is awed by its grandeur, and dismayed by humanity's own lack of progress.

Krasden has it wrong. In the same five million years since the Grand Canyon began, the human brain has evolved from approximately 400 cubic centimeters to about 1400 cubic centimeters, or about the size of a dolphin's brain.

Biochemical research on blood proteins of both humans and chimps suggest the hominids appeared in Africa five million years ago. At that time baboons outnumbered the future humanoids fifty to one. True, 99% of the genes in chimpanzee ovum are still identical to the genetic material in humans. Our DNA is less than one percent different than with the chimp's. Yet our brains are four or five times larger than the chimp's. There are the same number of neurons in our brains as there are galaxies in the universe--100 Billion! Our brains now have a memory capacity equal to a trillion bits of information, or more than 500 sets of The Encyclopedia Britainica. The average educated adult has a vocabulary of 100,000 words.

Yes, that 32,000 people still starve daily in the world is a criminal shame. But that should not blind us to the fact that the world today also supports 5.5 billion people, while the hunter-gatherer societies of prehistory could support at the most 10 million. That obesity is the most common nutritional problem in Western industrial societies is both a criminal shame and a remarkable achievement.

That popularized creation "Lucy" appeared in the final third of the gouging of the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is just river erosion. She is remarkable.

I love Lucy.


The "mechanistic" perspective on the universe is old news, and perhaps it may be obsolete. To some physicists, Hindu intuitions seem more true, more accurate a representation of the "facts," on this quantum level of subatomic particles that we know.

The results of some recent research are very troubling: Can human consciousness influence the random behavior of subatomic particles?

Perhaps the universe is more a Great Thought than a Great Machine.


Are you an electron or a proton?

In Carnival, order gives way to disorder. What is reticent breaks out of itself and reveals its true personality in its unconscious voice. Carnival scares the authorities, those who live in the center of the atom.

Yeats wrote, "The Center will not hold. " Where is the center of the universe?


Congress gave us the V-chip to protect our kids from sex and violence on television. If you think we need it, consider the other 96% of the world. Last time I checked, the TV show Baywatch is shown in 142 countries. Thomas Friedman of The New York Times said it's "the hottest ticket" shown on illegal satellite dishes in Shi'ite Iran.

In 1995 the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation slashed American-made TV shows from its primetime schedule. At the same time, the Canadian senate sought to restrict the "split-runs" of American magazines. (A "split-run" means the magazine is essentially American, with some Canadian fillers added to "localize" the product.) American corporations screamed that this is commercial protectionism and threatened retaliation. But isn't this merely Canadians trying to preserve their Master Story from being infiltrated, contaminated, overwhelmed, and swamped by Our Master Story?

On the other side of the world, Angolan teenagers have created their own thriving rap singers. The lyrics are Angolan. But the dancing is part traditional folk music and part Los Angeles street hip-hop. All of it is electrified.

The British Bronze Age has its roots in the Mycenaean culture around the Aegean Sea, but cultural diffusion took centuries (maybe even a millennium) to cross all of Europe. Homer wore plaid!

The longest non-stop plane flight in the world is the fourteen hour flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, to New York, New York. Tonight we can die from a disease that left its jungle home on the other side of the world yesterday. Nowadays even a Boeing 777 is too slow. If you have a satellite dish in your backyard, your rice paddy, your savannah, hey, you got MTV and CNN.

Feel pity for the Islamic fundamentalists. A thousand years ago they were in balance with the rest of the world. These days they know they have lost their place. They are powerless and impotent, desperate souls tied to an obsolete mythology that can only prophesize their own eventual extinction. They are the disinherited, the marginalized, the disenfranchised of the global community. Their problem: They have little to offer to the rest of the world. Their Master Story offers no solace to Believers nor future solutions to Unbelievers. They are fighting for a Way of Life that keeps them irrevocably out of the mainstream.

Muslims divide all humanity into Believers and non-Believers, yet Sunni Muslims stalk and ambush Shiite Muslims in and around Karachi mosques. There is dissension there.

Look at the terrorists' targets in the United States: The World Trade Center. Wall Street investment firms. The United Nations. A federal building in the center of America's Bible Belt. (Whoops, that was OUR GUYS!)

We know them by their enemies.

To use publishing metaphors, their Master Story has been rejected by the New York publishers. Their Master Story came in over the transom and became part of the slushpile of history. We should not laugh when some anonymous Islamic fundamentalist complains that Michael Jackson and Madonna should be tried for treason in an Islamic court. His frustration is real and valid. Even the Unabomber wanted The New York Times to print a book-length manuscript that told "his side of the story."

Their story is being swamped by ours. Thus is explained the Islamic revolution which swept over Iran during 1979, that caused Americans to be held hostage by that nation, which spelled The End to Jimmy Carter's Presidency.


The most recent news about the shape of the cosmos is truly incredible. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at UC-Berkeley, the universe seems to be speeding up. It seems to be . . . accelerating. The more distant a galaxy is, the faster it seems to recede. The lab and its Australian counterparts measured the speed of supernovas, those exploding stars. They say the universe is expanding. They say the universe will expand forever. Then grow dark and cold.

Each day I am more like Pascal, who wrote, "The eternal silence of those infinite spaces frightens me." His words haunt me, as does the night sky.


Compare and contrast the anguished complaint of Frankenstein's Monster with the serene words of Black Elk, a medicine man from the Dakota Sioux tribe: "Peace comes in the souls of men when they realize their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that the center of the universe is within each of us."

So, what's your point of view?

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