October 12, 2008

One day our white-dwarf sun will become a red giant.  This will happen as the sun loses its heat and begins to expand and dissipate,   in the process incinerating the planets of our solar system.   When the red-giant phase is complete,  the earth will be a cold cinder,  floating in a void.

In order for the human race to continue in existence,  man must discover undreamt-of secrets of the universe ages before the red-giant phase of the sun.   Perhaps in the millions of years remaining,    after a thousand quantum leaps of evolution,  man’s intellect may reach a level we cannot now imagine.    A Newton of those days may discover among his theories the means to keep the sun heated virtually forever,  though such a concept belongs only to present fantasy.   Another fantasy is space travel.   Relying on the totality of modern science,  we could not reach the nearest star in a thousand lifetimes;   but will future man uncover paths to other water planets?    Will he become an eternal vagabond in space in order to survive?    We cannot know.

Yet we do know,  as Ardrey states,  that man is a bad-weather animal,   that he thrives on conflict.   Conflict began man’s evolutionary climb and will sustain it,  wherever it leads.   By nature,   man looks for trouble,  just as he is enticed by problems to solve.   Conflict–even in the form of disasters and wars–breeds knowledge,   thus the fact that man loves to fight is a reason for hope,  not despair.    As an aside, it is pertinent to recall that the warring nations of history have attained the highest cultures,   while the peaceful peoples have remained in a primitive state.   Because of our war-like nature,  not in spite of it,   we may remain optimistic.

Jogging through a Tucson park one day,   I mulled over these curiosities.   As I jogged under an old archway that was marked for demolition,  I considered the inventive intelligence that had conceived the arch centuries ago,   how the form had stood the test of time in Roman bridges and aqueducts.   As the sun set in a fiery blaze,  I wondered if,  eons hence,   a similar intellect would confront the red giant.    Such thoughts prompted this sonnet:

The low sun seethed beyond my path

like a red giant there in wait;

or its blaze was like arriving late

at some war’s aftermath.

A fragment arch that I ran through

halfway along,  the park’s proud gate,

that had withstood the force of Fate

and challenge of Time,  still stood true.

Would the maker of that ancient form

appear and save the earth,  our home,

when one day men and stars contend?

Would a mind divert that final storm?

I turned,  and thought of aqueducts and Rome

and of worlds that mustn’t end…

–by Jim Douthit,   1980

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1 Comment »

  1. A haiku for Jim…

    Tucson, nice weather
    man, bad-weather animal
    there is his conflict

    Comment by Burke — October 15, 2008 @ 9:22 pm

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