What if life is the exception rather than the rule?
It certainly is in our neck of the woods – there’s nothing we would recognize as life for millions of miles – at least in our own corner of the universe, we are singularly alone. It doesn’t make us special – it makes us lonely.
Often we like it that way.
Sometimes we don’t.
But if we stop and look real close, down-to-the-dirt close, we begin to notice some things and it turns out we are not so alone after all, as worms etch their way into the dirt, ants scurry about their busy business, beetles prindle along, crickets chirp, tree frogs sing, birds dig and scratch, bears leave their I-was-here gifts, deer munch on acorns, eagles and other predator birds soar above it all, deigning to drop down only for a snack.
This place, this earth, teems with life.
It is an embarrassment of riches.
Like many today, I have long assumed that we are a mere speck on a dot on a hair on a flea of a very small part of a very large universe, where life is teeming.
But what if I, what if we, are wrong?
What if, as Fermi is said to have exclaimed in sorrow, I suspect, as well as frustration, but where are they?!?, or more precisely, where is everybody?
Statistical reasoning would say that there should be thousands upon thousands of planets with life capable of communicating with others ‘out there’.
And yet we have heard from no one.
So, to borrow from Fermi, where are they?
Science has actually named this phenomena the Fermi Paradox – that is, the contradiction that (1) the universe should be teeming with other life; (2) a good bit of that life should be fully capable of communicating in ways that we would be aware of at this stage in our own development, but (3) there are no signs of such life anywhere that we have detected, so where are they?
Theories abound – as they’re wont to do when we actually have no idea what we’re talking about. Maybe we really are alone. Maybe the universe really is teeming with life. We just don’t know enough to know – yet. And maybe we never will.
But as someone who loves Star Trek in every iteration, as someone who fancies what might be ‘out there’, as someone whose mother’s greatest dream has always been to travel the galaxies, I am left at sea with the idea that we might be utterly alone here.
That does not make me feel special.
It makes me feel bereft – like Fermi, wondering, where, oh where, are you?
*Read The Fermi Paradox for a good discussion of various theories.