Some of the great things about humans are our drive, curiosity and ambition. They are why we’ve sailed seas unknown, put men on the moon and sent probes beyond the edge of our own solar system.
Those twin questions – What’s out there? Are we alone? – impel us forward, but I have to admit neither keeps me up at night. If little green men showed up at the office it wouldn’t shatter my conception of the cosmos or my tiny spot in it. Besides, it’s Halloween, so who would be surprised by anything?
But a lot of people do fret and ponder over this stuff. I heard a rebroadcast of a radio show the other night on which the host was saying the original signal by now had reached Mars and would keep moving, ever outward and perhaps toward intelligent ears. Or antennae. Whatever.
He added the obvious line: Hey, come see us. Earth is lovely. We’ll party.
Let’s hold that thought for a minute.
What’s the range of outcomes here:
• Two intelligent species connect across interstellar space, stepping up the pace of discovery and leading to an era of understanding, peace and harmony.
• They send a few scouts who affirm – or not – that humans are the most interesting species on this planet and of course the most special in the galaxy. They promise to get back with us.
• They send an attack squadron that quickly dispatches humanity and picks over our technology for anything useful. Turns out the only thing they hadn’t already invented was the coin-operated gumball machine.
• They send scouts who covertly settle in among us and observe our kindness and intelligence but also our malice and vice, our disregard for others of our own species, our disregard for the planet generally, our shortsightedness and fits of barbarity, our tolerance for want in the midst of plenty – and they just say, forget it. This species is a swing and a miss (though it did invent pepperoni pizza and we’re taking that with us).
Look, if Mork shows up tomorrow looking for Mindy – and who wouldn’t? – that’s fine. But maybe We the Humans should work on our own bad selves before being eager to show off for the neighbors.
Delusional Norma Desmond’s famous line in “Sunset Blvd.” is, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup.”
Things didn’t end well for her. We might not be ready for a closeup either.
Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at 816-350-6365 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter at @FoxEJC.