December 12th, 1997.

Ignorance or arrogance?

This week I was going to write something Christmasy and very seasonal. I did start to write about the office parties that I went to this week. But that particular article made me sound like some mad sex-craved tart so I scrapped it. Then I wrote an entire article about how I blew my speakers up on my stereo. But, despite being amusing, that seemed a little irrelevant when I re-read it.

However, I haven't been one to care about the relevance in this weekly article, have I? So with that in mind, I haven't written anything about Christmas or anything remotely related to this time of year. Instead, I'm writing about space! - Well, I told you it wasn't festive!

The other night I was walking home and I decided to take a short cut through the park as it was early and the muggers don't usually come out till after 8 pm. The park was pitch black and no one was around. Normally I would try to get through it as quickly as possible, but for some reason this time I looked up and was stopped in my tracks.

There wasn't a cloud in the sky and in the darkness, you could see millions of stars. Now I am a bit of a hippy at heart, and it wasn't too cold so I found a bench and just sat there looking up at the stars. A mugger would have found me easy pickings because I soon became completely engrossed in the vast expanse above me. I was paying absolutely no attention to what was going on around me. I was just sitting there in the middle of the park on a lonely path looking at the stars.

I must have sat there for about half an hour, and I would have stayed longer had I considered it to be safer. It was amazing. There were millions of stars, and the more my eyes became accustomed to the darkness, the more I saw. A few shooting stars and even a couple of satellites crossed the night sky. Miles above my head, stuff that I never usually think about was just going along as it always does, regardless of the time of year.

As I sat there I began to think about the question that we all think about from time to time. Is there anything out there apart from the rubbish we have left? I don't mean little green men, I mean intelligent life of any kind. I looked out into the abyss and wondered whether something out there was doing the same as I... just sitting somewhere thinking "I wonder if anything is out there?"

I think it is the height of arrogance to say there's no other intelligent life in the vast creation, other than us. It's like people who say there is no God. How the hell do they know? Do the people who say such things have some kind of knowledge and understanding beyond the realms of normal human beings? What do these people base that assumption on?

In many ways, it is space and the fact that we haven't yet explored the planets in our solar system, that make me believe in the existence of a God. Something made all of this stuff and humanity plays a relatively small and insignificant part in the universe. If we all died tomorrow nothing outside of our planet would change.

There underneath the stars, I felt very small indeed. For all of our achievements, for everything we have done, all of our thoughts and emotions amount to nothing when put against space and time. But then humanity is on the whole very arrogant, isn't it? I think if an extra-terrestrial race were to suddenly try to make contact with us, we'd just load up our weapons and prepare to kill them. I mean, hey, we can't even live peacefully among ourselves so there would be no chance for little green people would there!

All the things we are doing to our planet make me angry. We are so selfish, so shortsighted when we continue to take from the planet and give nothing back. The earth summit was a joke, America threw all their toys out of the pram and said they weren't going to play anymore. Without their support, other nations saw no point in committing to any conservation plans. And what will happen is we will continue to take and take, politicians will continue to talk and talk and nothing will be done until it's nearly too late. That's just humanity.

When all we see is our surroundings week in and week out, I guess it's no surprise that people can't see any further. I had an experience that changed the way I thought about the planet. I took an 11-hour flight to L.A. in which time there wasn't a single cloud underneath us. For the entire journey, I just looked out of the window at the places I had only ever seen before on television: Iceland, Canada, the Hoover Dam, the Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon. I struggled to make out people on the ground. Seeing things from another perspective often changes how we think of them, and that day I changed my mind about this planet. I wonder how an astronaut comes to terms with all the stuff that happens to this planet after they have seen it from space?

Sitting somewhere looking at the stars isn't an unusual past time for me though, and these thoughts aren't rare for me either. I often look out into space and think about the possibilities, experiences, and opportunities out there. We have come so far, yet we still have such a long long way to go. I think sometimes we forget that.