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Katie’s Musings: Wondering

Cassie Williams
February 23 2017

Last night, NASA began teasing that a big announcement was coming.  Whenever NASA does this kind of thing, I feel like the world collectively holds its breath.  What’s it going to be:  the meteor that is going to send us the way the dinosaurs?  The development of Armageddon – style weapons to keep us safe from said meteors?  Contact with alien life forms?  In the vast and varied landscape of such national programs, I think perhaps NASA holds the most mystery and allure for people.  Space is the great unknown, the new frontier, because who can help but look at the stars and wonder.  That’s why Star Wars exists, for pete’s sake.

The announcement turned out to be the discovery of an entire system of Earth-sized planets, six of which are rocky Earth-like worlds, 3 of which happen to lie in the habitable-zone…also known as the goldilocks zone – not too close, not too far, juuuust right.  Not only that, but in the cosmic sense, the system is practically next door.  If that next door was 40 light years away, but with advancing technologies, still not entirely out of the question for a visit.  Of course, if the planets can support life, they might already support life, so who knows what we might encounter?

And, I mean, HOW COOL IS THAT?!

And also, HOW TERRIFYING IS THAT?!  Because recently Stephen Hawking released a statement that basically said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Of course there is probably life on other planets, and we should probably totally stop trying to get their attention because they’re likely way more advanced than we are and could shoot us out of the sky!”  And he’s kind of smart.

And let’s face it:  we human-folk do maybe sort of kind of have a little habit of assuming we know everything about everything, and it maybe sort of kind of gets us into trouble on occasion?  Maybe?

This wondering that we humans do about what lies beyond our borders is much older than any of the Star Wars movies.  We are a species of wonderers.  Seekers.  Question makers and risk takers.  The urge to move beyond what we already know and into new spaces of understanding is part of our human make up, and without it, we wouldn’t have fire, or the wheel, or automobiles, or airplanes, etc .

And not to be a downer, but it’s also how we got slavery and colonialism and violence and cultural appropriation and the subjugation of entire civilizations of people.

It happens in small ways, too:  we seek knowledge and understanding like a moth seeks the flame, and in our quest to move beyond our own physical/mental borders, it’s easy to take shortcuts sometimes, to step over people or beings or relationships in order to get where we know for sure we need to go.

So as we reach for the stars… or simply the next rung up on the ladder … all I’m saying is that we should maybe possibly a little bit remember to look down a bit along the way.