Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tripping on Tryptophan

How nice it was to take several days off from work, to celebrate our Canadian Thanksgiving! We spent Saturday shopping and cleaning, Sunday preparing and then eating a Thanksgiving feast, and then Monday trying to lose the pounds gained on Sunday.

My wife cooked a huge turkey with all of the usual accompaniments. Her friend Judy, who came over to celebrate with us, baked fresh bread and a chocolate cake for dessert. There must have been a county-wide shortage of Fry's Cocoa and icing sugar, after she shopped for ingredients. The cake provided a delicious finish to a wonderful meal.

Monday morning, my wife and son and I went for a walk around the subdivision where we now live. There is still a lot of construction going on, and it was interesting to see what is being built.

Monday afternoon, my son and I headed off to my brother's farm. My son lifted weights with his cousin while they yakked about high school. I'm sure the topic of girls must have come up too. Is it possible for teenage boys to have conversations without talking about girls? Not in my experience.

My brother and I rode horses for nearly two hours. It was a great day, sunny but not too warm, perfect for a long ride. I enjoyed getting out and spending time with my brother.

Today, it's back to work. I hadn't read or watched any news over the weekend, so I was curious to see what had happened with the North Korean nuclear test. Not much, according to most reports. I'm not sure that we need another lunatic with nuclear arms on our tiny and fragile globe. It's not like we can decide to leave earth for someplace safer and more secure, if things get out of hand here.

I wonder how many of us actually stop to think of how small our world is. It must have seemed huge back in the days of horse-drawn buggies and ox-carts, but with our modern jets it doesn't take very much time to circumnavigate the globe. At 500 miles per hour, assuming that the aircraft doesn't have to stop to refuel, it would take only 50 hours to fly all the way around the world. If you drive an average of 25,000 miles annually, you cover the distance around the earth's equator every year. Light, at 186,000 miles per second, travels a distance of over seven times the circumference of the earth in the time it takes to say "One Mississippi." The moon is only an average of ten times the earth's circumference away from us.

It's a small world, isn't it?

But, consider how we and our world fit into the larger order of things. The sun is 93,000,000 miles away from earth. A jet travelling at 500 miles per hour would need 186,000 hours to get there. That's 7,750 days or over 21 years, without stopping to refuel. That's quite a jaunt.

The nearest galaxy to our own Milky Way, is Andromeda. It is 2.2 million light years away. A light year is the distance that light, travelling at 186,000 miles per second, would travel in 365 days. That's 5,865,696,000,000 miles: five trillion, eight hundred and sixty-five billion, six hundred and ninety-six million. Andromeda is 2.2 times that far away from us. Try to figure out how long it would take you to get there in a jet travelling at 500 miles per hour, without giving yourself a headache or your calculator a nervous breakdown.

We are insignificant. Our globe is a tiny speck, in a boundless universe of which we understand nearly nothing. Our universe is fascinating, but it is not accessible to us. We can't simply get up and leave earth for someplace better. We're stuck here, folks, and we have to make the best of it.

It is not just the ecology that we need worry about. It is not just pollution of the atmosphere, of our oceans and lakes and rivers and streams that we need to be concerned about. We need to worry about the pollution of so many ideologies that seek to enslave us. The world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place. Rather than looking outwards, for leaders to guide us, we need to look inwards, to ourselves, for solutions. We must accept responsibility for ourselves and for our families and for the world around us. If each of our neighbours, near and far, in our country and elsewhere, similarly makes himself responsible for himself and his surroundings, we will be much better off than by following the latest moron who is trying to "bring us all together." The only leader each of us needs is ourself. The only boundary each of us needs is the recognition that our rights extend as far as the similar rights of each other citizen of our world, and no further. If we respect that reality, we will be fine. We will all become better human beings. The world will become a better place, and we will survive.

Sadly, I have doubts that the human race can behave that rationally. Decades, centuries, millennia from now, human beings will still be looking for leaders to show them the way, if they haven't blown up themselves and our beautiful world in the interim.

That would be a tragedy.

In the meantime, I spent the Thanksgiving weekend being grateful. I am thankful for so much. Our world may be an insignificant speck in the universe, but we are each very significant to those who love and need us, and to our responsibility to leave the world in better shape than it was when we arrived.


  1. It's too bad we can't do Thanksgiving in USA around Columbus Day, like you get to!
    The heart of the issue you're raising, is that no one wants to understand that rights have limits, just as anything else does. These limits are prescribed by nature and reason, which is why government has no realistic grasp of them. A preacher I used to listen to before they found him in bed with his neighbor's wife (quite a few of them, actually) said "Human nature is to love slavery, because liberty requires too much responsibility and diligence for the unregenerate man to maintain." While this might appear true, the first part is complete error: Human nature is to endeavor to enslave everyone else, or so it would appear from the evidence I've seen.
    How can people who will not control themselves successfully control others? It's impossible, nevertheless the quest for the ultimate weapon was born of this nature, reaching the holy grail of the WMD.
    There's a name for this type of attitude, and it is the one that still controls most places and people on earth today. It's called tyranny. It's also why the world cannot be a perfect place, and never will be.

  2. Well said. Problem is, we don't learn from our mistakes. Even if one generation recognizes that something doesn't work, the next generation wants to be independent and unfettered by the actions of the first and wants to try something 'new.' The 'new' is of course something that has been tried (and that has failed) before. And the nonsense continues.