Creatures of the cosmos

In Opinion

For every thousand nitwits, buffoons or wastrels that corrupt the collective intellect of the human species, there is one genius who sets the world afire with the guiding light of knowledge and innovation. Those of us who benefit from the products of a few hard-working minds often take for granted the sheer majesty of the wonders which these people have created, wonders that allow us to shape the very landscape itself.

This summer I flew to Asia, not carried by babbling birds or trumpeting angels as the superstitious ancients may have imagined, no. I was ferried across an ocean by a flying machine that represents the apotheosis of aerodynamics and human ingenuity.

Realizing the glory of this achievement, I understood that the only thing keeping my frail mortal body from a brutal plunge into the blue ocean 40,000 feet below were a few thin sheets of aluminum. The airplane, a mechanical marvel now utilized by millions, has enabled our wingless mammalian species to effortlessly fly with the birds, but faster, better, stronger.

Humanity encircling the globe with wings of steel has flattened our earth considerably. When we reflect upon what this single invention has done for trade, travel and tactics, it should inspire us to have pride in the human species and the best that it has to offer: Pride in our engineers, who toil constantly to give us the means by which we build and flourish; pride in our entrepreneurs, who forge the most distant dreams into dazzling reality; and most important of all, pride in humanity’s instinct to always grasp at the unreachable.

Homo sapiens is an innovative species, with an irrepressible curiosity. Though we may be inundated with hordes of superstitious and ignorant people, one great mind is sufficient to create something new and valuable. Of new inventions, new technology, new machines, many will be risky enough to present a danger to the very survival of our species. The discovery of the method for splitting the atom is one poignant example. As the astronomer Jill Tarter so eloquently put it, “The story of humans is the story of ideas … that shine light into dark corners.”

Even without risks on such a grand scale, the quest for discovery has always been a perilous endeavor. What courage it must have taken for the few intrepid explorers to brave uncharted territories marked, “Here there be monsters!” In a reality filled with the constant annihilation of even the galaxies themselves, danger certainly lurks around every corner.

Like Icarus, will we venture too close to the sun? Shall we open Pandora’s Box? I submit gladly that it is inevitable.

It is in our genes to crave the ineffable secrets of the universe, and this above all is nature’s greatest achievement. Carl Sagan once wrote in one of his publications, “We are creatures of the cosmos and always hunger to know our origins, to understand our connection with the universe.“

With our unique minds and inquisitive spirit, Homo sapiens is presented with the same dilemma that all biological life has been given; we must either conquer nature or be consumed by it. Naturally, I am one that prefers the former.

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3 commentsOn Creatures of the cosmos

  • Interesting food for thought. loftily skipping on the waters of the great unknown like a water strider flirting with the facts of the physical and the myths of the spiritual realms.

    I have had that same experience as I flew back and forth between the continents in my wilder days, on the trusty Boeing 747 of the day, now deemed geriatric after 50 years of service.

    It dawns upon me that our “Powers that be” are acutely aware of our diminishing status in this technological expanse as their propaganda about past achievements becomes ever more blatant in the various MSM*, the most recent expression of which is the sudden appearance of “much better” photographs now being plastered on their respective front pages. Why only now?

    Yes, humans have an uncanny capability for innovation and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge – if they are left alone in peace and allowed to keep their earnings, not harassed by a meddling, overbearing omnipresent government. Where did all that modern progress, glitter and innovation in Shanghai and other sprawling coastal Chinese cities come from? Were the people under communist rule really that intellectually stimulated and financially empowered that they were able to create that splendor out of thin air the way Americans once did or did they have some help, perhaps from their far Eastern Uncle across the big pond?

    * Main Stream Media

  • One can re-read and correct what one will, some of the most glaring omissions in a comment elude one until the Submit button has been pressed and to one’s horror irrevocably printed on the web page…

    Much better photographs above refers to the wide-angle moonshots of the landing sites of the various Lunar modules during the late 1960 and early 1970s that are presently bragged about by NASA in the various news media across the nation.

  • The thing about Icarus is that he did his work before there was such a thing as mandatory OSHA compliance. LoL.

    Indeed, we will be attempting to touch the sky as we always do. The advantage of thousands of years of trial-and-error is that we can see how important standards of safety are. The safety culture isn’t just for nuclear power, of course, it is for all industrial enterprises.

    And that is what our engineers have done, as you pointed out. They have made flying and traveling so safe that you can take a nap while traversing the oceans. The human infrastructure of pilots and ATC do the rest.

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