By Larry Feinstein

The Water Planet

Earth, the water planet. Image Credit: NASA

“This is a present from a small, distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours.”President Jimmy Carter

Around six months ago, my grandson and I took a stab at forming a long distance, book club, which sounded like a terrific idea to me. He told me about a book he was really interested in, called See You in the Cosmos. You know, when you have spent your life in marketing and promotion, there are just some things that come naturally to you. Of course, I immediately got in touch with the author, Jack Cheng, and we had a great exchange. I even got him to write an email to my grandson, which was a huge hit.

I don’t read books, something I’ve always had difficulty with, because it is challenging to get my mind to stay in one place too long. It’s funny, because I write, it is assumed I am a book reader, which I am miles away from. Well, as some of you may know, I started this whole writing business around 10 years ago, because of my grandson and reading a book with him felt like such a gift, in spite of my tome terror.

The book ended up being its own blessing. Central to the story is the Golden Record, a fascinating undertaking, produced by one of the greatest minds and richest spirits in the world of astronomy, Carl Sagan. A decision was made to create a record that shared the story of this planet, with the remote possibility that some extraterrestrials would eventually find it.

A gold-plated record was placed in both Voyagers 1 and 2, launched back in 1977. This record contains images of life on Earth, with greetings in hundreds of languages, all sorts of animal sounds, plus music from Beethoven to Chuck Berry. It even has graphic instructions on how to play it. It’s reminiscent of the message in a bottle, but instead of being thrown into the ocean, it was launched into space. At this time, the Voyager is 14 billion miles from earth and the record’s creators imagined it would not be found for at least 40,000 years. I am not making up either of those unfathomable numbers.

Years of sitting on a cushion have made me vulnerable to some crazy ideas and one of them certainly has to be being part of something so much greater than myself, well beyond my capacity to understand. The big one is the interconnectedness of absolutely everything, past, present and future. Facts are shunted aside, allowing faith to create a vision blind to my eyes, deaf to my ears, fleetingly focused in my mind.

Honestly, I had been going along, one decade melting into the next, periodically having my Alfie moments. “What’s it all about? What does it mean?” The unwanted, unstoppable passage of time has brought greater direction for me. The need to write is my deeply personal way of trying to answer those questions, knowing the exercise is in the effort, not in some brilliant elucidation to come from it.

Most of the time, I like to look for a quote to start off my stories. I did the good ole search for “Golden Record” and found the above from President Jimmy Carter, a guy who was better suited to be a saint than president. There was something about the optimism that caught me, deep in the throes of what I have been wrestling with for several years now.

When I look at where we are today, I can’t think passed this century and that even feels too remote to me. The terribly optimistic projection of when this precious record could possibly be found represents about half the amount of time our species has actually been on this planet. It puts wishful thinking to shame and falls deep into the morass of mindless meandering, fiction at its best.

I spend a fair amount of my time these days looking at the incredibly dire predictions regarding the deadly fallout from our complete inaction addressing our climate emergency, whether reflected in the record-breaking carbon dioxide in the air, the seemingly unstoppable rise in our temperature, or the mind-blowing reduction in the number of species of all kinds, imperceptibly and ultimately causing the collapse of the house of cards that supports all life here. The deck is marked, and we are cheating ourselves.

Larry Feinstein

The precious record propelled into deepest space is like a prayer from a time long before its potential retrieval. The record of my own that I am leaving behind, while meant for my grandson, is also its own epitaph to a time that once was. What is the story we want to tell from this time? We are at a crossroads; of that I am certain. We have, within our grasp, the ability to create a new record, one that shares how we overcame the adversity of our own making, to meet the future. We are both the enemy and the savior. The choice is ours and the time is now.

See You in the Cosmos.


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