MONDAY, JUNE 28, 2021
With a memory of Old Seattle: One year in the late 1970s, late in the month of June, we visited friends in Seattle.
We don't think we're making this next point up. We recall that the temperature went over 80 degrees one day, with the result that some outdoor events were cancelled around the region.
That, of course, was the old Seattle, the Seattle before climate change. From there, we proceed to two invaluable observations concerning UFOs.
First observation concerning UFOs:
From Seattle, we motored east to Glacier National Park. We spent a week with a group of friends high up, in one of the park-run chalets that can be accessed only by foot.
It snowed on the Fourth of July that year; again, this was pre-climate change. In those days, there were still glaciers in this park! We're taking you back that far!
One day, the group of six headed off on a "hike to nowhere." Briefly, we stopped on a hillside to give our bear bells a rest. When we did, we were puzzled by a sight which stretched out before us:
We were looking at a small mountain lake whose surface was frozen over. (It was a bright, sunny day. Temps were probably in the 60s.) Weirdly, there seemed to be an opening in the middle of the lake—a type of chute which seemed to lead down into the middle of the earth.
No one could figure out what we were looking at. After something like ten minutes, somebody solved the puzzle.
We were looking at a slice of the lake which hadn't frozen over. Perhaps because the water and the air were both so clear, this had produced an unusually crisp reflection of the cliffside which rose up above the lake.
Once the puzzle had been solved, it was obvious that it actually was the solution. You could track elements of the "chute to nowhere" back to elements of the cliff which stood above the lake.
But even after solving the puzzle, it was virtually impossible to comprehend what we were looking at. It was a completely convincing optical illusion, one we've never forgotten.
Some say that's what these UFOs are. We have no idea.
(Key update: Based on the way we're all dressed in the photos from that day, it was colder than the 60s in the area where the optical illusion occurred.)
Second observation concerning UFOs:
People, listen up! We humans don't have the slightest idea what we are, or where we are, or what we're doing there. We don't have the slightest idea what could be floating around, or if anything's floating around at all, perhaps including us.
At least in the west, we tend to be proud of our modern cosmology / physics / biology. But try this thought experiment:
Imagine that human development continues for the next thousand years. The human race isn't destroyed by nuclear war or by climate disaster.
Donald J. Trump doesn't get elected again. Human culture and science continue to develop.
Those people a thousand years hence may look back at our cosmology with the same embarrassment we often feel when we look back at our own fairly recent ancestors. Almost surely, their understanding of the cosmos won't even resemble ours.
They may think that Einstein's formulations were embarrassingly primitive. They may know what the current set of UFO / UAP sightings were, but they'll almost surely be embarrassed, or perhaps amused, by the various ways we tried to explain them.
We humans have always been inclined to think that we understood the cosmos. Let us offer that key thought again:
We have no idea where we are or what we're doing there.
Our basic conceptions are very limited. When people try to spell them out, the result tends to be a hopeless muddle, though journalists will stand in line to say that these explanations are just amazingly clear.
(Even Einstein couldn't write an "Einstein-made-easy" book! More than a hundred years later, no one else has been able to do it either.)
A thousand years from now, will people actually understand the ins and outs of the cosmos?
Probably not. But they'll possibly know that they should disregard the question.
All roads will lead to Nepal, or maybe Tibet; there will be oodles of laughter. The Dalai Lama laughs at everything, David Brooks once said.
The Dalai Lama's joy: Two years ago, Mark Epstein reviewed Brooks' book, The Second Mountain, in the New York Times. This is part of what he wrote, right in the gent's own paper:
EPSTEIN (5/12/19): Brooks does remember a lunch with the Dalai Lama. “He didn’t say anything particularly illuminating or profound,” Brooks makes a point of telling us, “but every once in a while he just burst out laughing for no apparent reason.” Brooks was touched by the Dalai Lama’s infectious joy but does not return the favor. Despite lots of illuminating and profound quotes and stories, he never makes us smile.
Brooks came up short on infectious joy. Easy to be hard!
Meanwhile, what was the Lama laughing about? A thousand years from now, will everybody know?
("No people are uninteresting," Yevtushenko said.)