Posted tagged ‘humankind’

DRIVE OUT THE “HO HUMS”:Send In The Explorers

November 26, 2010

Right now, for so many of us, the future has the look of a scattered picture puzzle with lots of missing pieces. Oh yeah, we have been here before and have survived. One of the keys of our past survivals was the abundant view of a promising new future. We were able to dream and hope and thus our struggles, though painful, held promise and actually moved us forward. Well, we need such a set of views now. Most importantly, we need to send in more than clowns. We need to send in explorers to give us realistic dreams and hopes for our future. This has always worked for all humankind and it can work now.

Lo and behold, there is just such an exploratory rescue on the horizon! The aerospace giant, Lockheed Martin Corporation has announced its plans to launch an exploratory mission to the dark side of the Moon. Now as a space exploration venture by a leading member of the private sector, this is spectacular. In our opinion to make it even more spectacular and scientifically promising we would like to see this project become a joint effort by Lockheed-Martin and NASA.

Oh yes, we hear the grind, buzz and rattle of the government budget hackers as they get ready to launch another warning rant about the high cost of space exploration. We also hear the doors slam of the White House science advisory staff who have already exhausted their limited imagination. These reactions ignore the truly realistic economic stimulus for both the private sector and the legion of space exploration specialists stuck hopelessly on idle. On top of this is the incredible benefit of an awesome, exciting and stimulating space exploration effort. It reawakens both public and media interest and support. “Ho Hums” begin running out the door.

The working relationship between NASA and Lockheed-Martin is time-tested in the cauldron of our historically successful shuttle and International Space Station missions. Adding NASA into the new Moon project adds an immense and hungry public interest as well as shared funding and technology support. For Lockheed-Martin, as the prime, this is a significant boost to an already ambitious and inspiring plan. For NASA it is a new experience as second fiddle, but within a famous symphony orchestra with a  global performance ahead. Everybody can be winners. Everybody in this case are the key players, as well as a global population of space exploration enthusiasts.

“Make It So!” This classic order from the realm of the Star Trek series is most fitting for our joint venture recommendation. This phrase should become the motto for the launch of this joint space program. It should also be the shout that echoes throughout the halls of Congress and the White House. In making it so, our politicians stand to rise in eminence by boosting our economy, by boosting opportunities for the jobless and by projecting a glimmering view of humankind’s future in space exploration.

Dare we not “Make It So?”

CREDITS:

Broken puzzle image courtesy of  “smh” on Great House Fliggerty at:http://bit.ly/gdAQSs

Header image courtesy of Lockheed-Martin, and  POPSCI 

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TAG-ALONG SCIENCE – PART II: Taking The Lead

November 22, 2010

It is our opinion, and we emphasize opinion, that humankind is on the cusp of an evolutionary leap. Key words are cusp and leap. Cusp in our context means turning point, and we use leap because we see the transition as abrupt and significant and not gradual and possibly insignificant.

The cusp is at the intersection of our scientific and technological (S&T) progress, and the steady decline in humankind’s support of S&T. This diminishing public interest in S&T and its benefits to human society is expressed through political policy decisions that rarely give priority to S&T goals and benefits.

The leap constitutes the direction and benefits, or the lack thereof, depending upon which way humankind moves in the next several centuries. Wait! Wait, don’t let the time factor turn you away with shrugs of indifference. Humankind has reached the level where time increments have accelerated so that when we speak about centuries we are literally talking about immediate concerns. What we start or stop today has an accelerated impact that extends well into mega-millenniums.

Turning the leap into a long-jump: Yes, we are following our opinion and are turning forward not backward.  Most importantly, we envision a series of both policy and program changes that begin the process of bringing S&T into the daily lives of humankind in very obvious and tangible ways. Regardless, none of this is will be a flash-bang magic show. It is envisioned as an orderly and very dedicated process. The following represents the key preparations we must make for that long-jump.

A new S&T model: Right now the majority of our science and technology programs have tight links to political policy. As a result many very important programs suffer: (a) see-saw levels of importance and (b) funding cycles that range from affluence to total poverty. A twist in political party power often puts an S&T program in jeopardy. Usually the threat is preceded by deflated funding or the lack thereof. This lack of consistent and long-term political and policy support short-changes both research and its beneficiaries; the citizens of this nation and usually the world.

A new and different Office of Science and Technology Policy. Exclusive of those specialized programs associated with defense and national security, S&T policies should be established by public referendum and are mandated to persist regardless of changes in the current political party controlling the  government. This means that the current Executive Branch’s  Office of Science and Technology Policy is replaced by a very open, and broad-based S&T policy administration program. This program forms the core of the public S&T referendum.

A new governing body: Key members of the science and technology community come together under a Federal mandate to draft the structure and initial program definitions that the public will consider and approve or disapprove. Participation is by all divisions of the National Academy of Sciences, by leading private research institutions, by major university science and technology departments, and by all Federal agencies and departments that have S&T functions and responsibilities.

The National Institute for Science and Technology Policy (NISTP): We have boldly stepped forward to prepare a preliminary definition document for the NISTP and how it can work. You may get access to it here, as a download, in PDF format.  We have done it this way to avoid producing a very, very long blog page, and to give you ample time to review our document. We sincerely hope you will take the time to consider it and hopefully comment here.  Please remember, what we are proposing here is a system whereby S&T research and development is for and by the people and not just the product of political or special interests. Our document gives attention to this transition and how it can be both developed and sustained.

Reflections and Conclusion: In many pages of this blog as well as in others we have written, we emphasize that we must become a spacefaring nation. Actually we extend this to include a spacefaring world as an important evolutionary step for humankind. Well, to achieve this highly essential state we must first become a nation and a world community where science and technology are in the forefront of our daily lives. No, we are not talking about a civilization that is dominated by S&T, we are talking about a civilization that is universally enriched by S&T research and development. Enrichment in this case is both economic and sociological.

Most importantly humankind, as we have consistently maintained, is here not to fail but to move forward in time and space.

We are now pretty certain that we are not alone in this universe and although we have never met ET, they are out there and in time we will meet, and, in our opinion, peaceably. None of this will come to pass without our immediate involvement in the growth and spread of S&T as humankind’s vital evolutionary resource.

As we have proposed here, S&T growth should be essentially in the hands of we-the-people and not at the whim of politicians and/or special interests. We also believe that what is coming will be the most exciting, the most fulfilling moment in our evolution since that time when we rose up from the sea and stepped upon this land. In all of this, time never waits, and we believe neither should we. It is time, now, to take the lead.

REFERENCES:

Scientific regress: When science goes backward

Planning for the Future of American Science

CREDITS:

Clip-Art Cartoon, modified by Waddell Robey to include the letters “S&T” on a cartoon figure.


 

BONDING WITH “WHY”: The Citizen-Scientist

November 12, 2010

“We are unlikely to survive if we do not make full and creative use of our human intelligence” The preceding and prophetic observation was made by astrophysicist Carl Sagan in his book,The Dragons of Eden. We quote it here to emphasize the increasing need for the citizen-scientist as an evolutionary energizer.

It is usually a very rapid event after a young child begins to talk that he or she will, one day, use the why word. This is the vital and first step of both an inquisitive mind and a potential, future citizen-scientist. Oh yes, some of those children will go one to become professional scientists, but many, many others will follow different life patterns; however, in each case that inquisitiveness exists and if properly cultivated lives on as an agile mind.

Oh dear, this is one of those techy talks that expect the reader to run and gather up scientific paraphernalia in preparation for some unique little experiment, right? Actually no, although some of those programs or exercises can be both interesting and instructive. We are writing this blog to acknowledge the value of appreciating those who chase why and the benefits it can bring to all of us.

The basic, all-purpose citizen-scientist: Becoming a citizen-scientist is a nurturing process that, as we have indicated above, begins in childhood. That natural curiosity is encouraged by parents and later by teachers to the point where the youngster feels very comfortable asking why and following its implications. As we also stated, some of these youth will go on to become scientists or teachers of science. We, however, want to consider those followers of science not as an intellectual pursuits, but as ongoing delights in their exposure to the revelations and issues that come from answers to why. Just like the child that gets responsive explanations or demonstrations from a supportive respondent, the basic citizen-scientist looks for and responds to the products of scientific exploration.

The amateur anthropologist, archaeologist, astronomer, biologist (ecologist), botanist (horticulturist) and so on are specific and highly defined examples of the citizen-scientists that go beyond the basic stage. We are talking about the individual or even family that takes a very broad interest in science in different ways. They can be described as generally responsive to all scientific revelations and are usually eager to share this information with others. Their excitement comes from both reports of the exploration process and generalized reports of results. They identify with the explorers and often regard them as heroes. On the other hand, they can often become disappointed, even losing interest, when there is a stifling of the flow of science progress’ exciting exploration stories. We write more on this issue, below.

Simple joys from personal discoveries: The broad, general, scientific interests we are discussing here often encourages its followers to explore on their own. This can produce stunning and memorable moments and rewards. The image included in our blog header for this issue is an example.

Walking along a narrow trail in a deep, shadowy forest the citizen-explorer follows a trail that leads to a sunlit patch of wildflowers. There, in bright humility, a jewel of nature shares its breathtaking beauty. It is an awesome moment that is never forgotten. Most importantly,  the encounter exposes the citizen-scientist to the same kind of exultant reactions that the professional scientist often experiences. This is when his or her research yields breakthrough results. Both are “eureka” moments.

The scientists share their discoveries in very formal and careful ways with colleagues and the science community. The citizen-scientists with a generalized interest tend to share their discoveries or new information with friends and family and usually with a handful of fellow citizen-scientists. The more specialized citizen-scientists listed above tend to officially present their findings within an organized group. A group that can be global in size and reach. Regardless, the products of chasing why are shared and invigorated by this extended, public interest.

The art of sharing: So why is there not more of those exciting citizen-scientist discovery exchanges, and why are there not more generalized citizen-scientists? Now, we are considering two interactive why’s. A common factor is the need for broadly effective and interesting information exchanges. In some cases the exchange is too tightly wrapped in the learned vocabularies of the special interest citizen-scientists. These tend to either overwhelm or even coldly exclude the general interest citizen-scientist. This can be quite off-putting.

In the public venue, the media (print, radio and television) have produced some totally astounding science programs that capture both the generalist and specialist citizen-scientists. The problem is, these highlights are random and vary in the quality of their content and accuracy. This problem is confounded by some presentations that are more editorial than informational. The results in these latter instances distract the audience with sociopolitical issues forcing their followers to lose their link to the basic scientific content. Informational and inspirational outcome is shut down! This can cause more than an incidental reaction it can, sometimes, push a fledgling citizen-scientist away.

For many of us, finding answers to why has taken on spiritual connotations that offer soothing but also often inexplicable answers. At the same time, either through a fear of science with its direct statements asserting it does have an answer or our needs for reassurances about life on Earth, we turn to the orderly structure of a religion. This should not prevent our desires to follow the why’s in life while also getting many answers from the sciences. The net personal effect is peace of mind and personal fulfillment as we understand more about all that surrounds us. We also come to find that although we are not eternal as humans, we are forever eternal as a glorious composite of energy that goes on, and on long after our human shell has expired. We are, and always will be one with the universe.

Let science abound: The more involved with science, to any degree, that we become the greater evolutionary strength and progress we make as humankind. As this happens, and as Carl Sagan has advised, our awareness of a host of issues that threaten that progress inspires us to unify and speak-out.

Oh no, you mean we have to become political activists? I don’t like that at all. No, activism in that respect can be expressed in one simple act – voting. The political system looks to dominant influences (dollars, political theories, and even public interests). A unified electorate that have a large population of citizen-scientists can gain important influence that serves to both save our home planet, and assure that humankind will continue to evolve. In short, we become more comfortable with our neighborhood; the Universe.

We are so busy. Family life is scattered and demanding. How can we do this too? It seems just too difficult. Yes, it can, but within a family, an ideal starting place is with your children. The younger they are the better, but age should not be a barrier. Let science come to dinner, let it also join the soccer, or baseball or football team your child is involved with. As you, the parent, look for general science links to share, you are on your way to becoming a citizen-scientist too.

Science is not drudgery. Visit a science museum, a planetarium, an aquarium, or even watch good (not wacky) scifi TV or movies that don’t necessarily educate, but do stimulate questions. In this latter case, your responsibility is to have or know where to find the correct answers.  Guess what? Your family is becoming a citizen-science enclave.  See over there, Einstein is doing a happy dance.

Well, that is interesting and I agree possible. My problem is our kids come home telling us their teachers got angry with them when they tried to use their new science awareness to correct the teacher. Yes, that will be a challenge, until you as citizen-scientist, parents take positive action to improve education in our schools.  No, don’t cry about not having enough time. If your child is gravely ill you rush to the doctors or hospital. Likewise, when your child is suffering from cognitive starvation you must rush to your school systems and get them fixed.

Science seems so remote and distant from our daily lives. We suggest that is wrong, and urge you to think about it obviousness and simplicity as did Galileo when he wrote:

” The Sun, with all the planets revolving around it, and depending on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as though it had nothing else in the Universe to do.” – Galileo Galilei

Get started today on your journey to becoming a citizen-scientist. When you hear or read the word why, follow through and seek the answer or if not that seek those who seek the answer and follow them.

On that wonderful, day-off,  fishing trip, while you wait for that exhilarating moment when a fish takes the bait, let your eyes follow the flight of a bird. There before you is nature’s mastery of what we still struggle to perfect.

Be amazed; seek answers; share answers, and welcome science into your mind and heart.

CREDITS:

Cartoon Image of Child with Questions: Courtesy of Parents in Education: Link>>http://www.pieinc.org/QandA.html

Wildflower image in header. From photography collection of Waddell Robey (c) 2007

“PUSHING THE ENVELOPE”: Exploration’s Focus!

November 3, 2010

“Pushing the envelope” is not a new phrase to most of us. Upon hearing it, we usually immediately envision daring test pilots, like Chuck Yeager, or all the equally daring and courageous astronauts such as Alan Shepard or Eileen Collins. In reality that phrase pretty well describes the focus of all exploration activities. It is a vital focus that turns curious wanderings or speculations into positive breakthroughs and discoveries.

We selected the image on the left above as our view of what pushing the envelope looks like. It also directly appeals to our belief in the importance of humankind’s efforts to explore deep space; however, these are big, dramatic efforts, and the process or focus is at all levels of human inquisitiveness and endeavor. That is right, most likely every one of us has challenged the status quo, or the rules to advance. When we do it with a high element of personal risk we are truly at the edge of the envelope. Additionally, this focus does not advocate or include recklessness. It does include definite risk taking, and challenging known boundaries as we search the unknown, but it is done in a way that the risks are considered solid investments for the future of humankind. Here are some examples of what we mean:

  • Life Sciences: Certainly a clear example is the current research into the understanding and therapeutic use of human stem cells. The risk is an ethics issue that if left unresolved will ignore one of the greatest potentials to revive and support human health and homeostasis. Another current example is a breakthrough discovery by researchers of a way to strengthen a weakened or weakening heart muscle.
  • Astrobiology: Yes this is related to the Life Sciences group above, but represents a broader and deeper view into the existence of life within the universe. Recent research emphasizes the importance of energy in the beginnings of life here, and essentially throughout the universe.
  • Human Spaceflight: The risks and dangers are both obvious and serious, and we have already seen the benefits of this exploratory focus. A classic and important example is the ongoing International Space Station program that is providing important research in a variety of critical areas. Most importantly the research into what happens to humans as they spend extended periods of time in space where weightlessness and cosmic radiation exposures are critical issues.
  • Personal life challenges: We may not consider these critical, but the simple acts of personal weight control, stopping smoking, making a dramatic career change, stepping forward to speak out against illegal and/or inhuman actions are all examples of personal challenges we accept and carry out. Depending upon the individual, the elements of risk and hazard will vary, but the exploratory focus to find solutions for change is common. In most cases, acts of courage unique to the person are present.
  • All Science: Scientific research regularly pushes the envelope. Now not all scientists push, but within their respective disciplines there are many bold, courageous risk takers carrying forward the exploratory focus. The risks vary from total failure to unexpected and sometimes dangerous outcomes. (a) The physicist Marie Curie was at great personal risk of radiation poisoning. (b)Professor August Raspet of Mississippi State College gave his life to improve our understanding of boundary layer control and laminar air flow in aircraft design. (c) Antarctic Explorer Sir Robert Scott, shared vital data on this polar region and lost his life and that of his fellow explorers in the process. The list is endless and rich with major contributions to all areas of the sciences and, most importantly, to the well-being of humankind.

“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” This quote by writer and social philosopher, Kurt Vonnegut, in our mind, clearly defines the exploratory focus. Our schools, our families, our corporations, and our very lifestyles should at least include acknowledgement of this focus, and ideally should make it a central functional theme. This, however, is not enough. Parents, schools, leaders must teach, encourage and support the exploratory urge. In the process we learn about risk, how to assess it, and when to accept it as a partner in our search for new discoveries, new explanations, and a growing body of science. This is how we as humans, have moved forward, and it is vital to us in our efforts to understand the origins of life here, and forever beyond.

Go now to the edge, take a long, deep look, and then “push the envelope.”

CREDITS:

The image of the Heliosphere is courtesy NASA/JPL/CalTech

EVA Image: Astronaut Mark Lee testing EVA safety and rescue systems. Courtesy NASA/JPL –  STS-64

BIRD BRAIN? Well, Thank You For The Compliment!

October 30, 2010

I see you, I hear you, I know you.

Brains, regardless of their hosts, are immense organs of great power and facilitation. The bird brain title for this blog acknowledges that relative power. If you have doubts, take some time and birdwatch. Watch small birds, big birds, seabirds, raptors and of course the great Bald Eagle. All are examples of the majesty of coordinated movement and navigation – while flying under their own power. Something not one of us can do; unassisted.

This blog article seeks to honor science’s explorations of the brain, especially the human brain. Most importantly, we need to understand we are still groping. Really? How so?

The work of neurologists, neuro-psychiatrists, neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, psychologists and philosophers all contribute, on a constant and ongoing basis, to our knowledge about the brain. As we learn more we discover one revelation after another of the amazing uniqueness and power of the brain, regardless, as I have stated, of its host organism.

Like our exploration of the universe, the cosmos of the brain constantly teases us to look further and deeper. It can be coy, confrontational, demanding, illusive, and always in power. It rumbles with laughter as we, with our brains, seek to discern brains in general. Who is in charge here? Personally, I remember how I stunned a radtech after I had an MRI of my brain by stating: “Hmmm, here my brain is looking at images of itself. What can it be thinking?”

Brain Recovery: My own experience in working with clients who had suffered traumatic brain injuries confirmed, on a daily basis, the power of the brain to not only survive, but to restore itself into full power.  Yes, in some cases there were memory and motor deficits that needed therapeutic assistance, but in most cases the brain responded with vigor and renewal of lost functions. Two classic examples: (a) The brain injured young man in a deep coma who physicians were now advising family to consider pulling the plug and agreeing to organ donations. That same afternoon, the young man is found sitting upright in his hospital bed asking a nurse why he was here and what had happened. This was five months after his initial injury, and (b) The young man seriously brain injured in a motorcycle accident. Staff writes him off as a candidate for placement in a permanent custodial facility. He fights it, both unconsciously and consciously and begins to return to full function. A thorough screening including an IQ evaluation reveal he had a recovery IQ of 135. This young man is now a successful auto-electronics systems specialist.

Despite these natural and assisted recovery efforts, sometimes the damage is so extensive and so deep that even the die-hard brain gives up. Tragic and sad? Yes, but also a reality. The important thing is that the research (explorations) of brain function and recovery continues, and as mentioned above, provides bountiful insights and surprises. It is possible that in the future there will be fewer cases where the brain gives up. One of these future breakthroughs, in my opinion, is the research associated with stem cell therapy.

Brain Death: Brains never want to die, but deprived of their vital nutrients and oxygen filled blood they begin to collapse and slowly shut down their host’s life support systems. Regardless, in reality, I believe they are the last to go. When they shut down because their host’s life support systems (heart, lungs, kidneys, etc) have failed they are still the last to go, albeit quickly in most cases. Well, what about deep comas? The host’s systems still function with external help, but the brain seems essentially shut down. This is where, in my opinion, we will find Stem Cell therapy may come to the rescue.

We still do not know fully how the brain exercises its repair and recovery process, but research in this area that involves the use of Stem Cell therapy may open entirely new pathways for recovery. Exciting and rewarding research awaits us. Additionally, in a great many cases, persons who have suffered traumatic brain injury have also suffered spinal cord injuries which puts them in a very limited lifestyle. Again, application of Stem Cell therapy to address both the brain and the spinal cord damages could produce stunning recoveries.

The Exploration Theme: Stem Cell research in this case fully utilizes the exploration theme. Scientists are exploring how and why stem cells work, and in doing so they are and continue to make discoveries. They seek to explain these discoveries and in so doing they are and will continue to find applications that both repair and enrich human life. Right now, we are just on the first leg of our explorations, With a fully expanded research program the discoveries and results could easily become one of the most important and vital medical outcomes affecting all humankind. Dare we not venture forth?

For bird brains and human brains and all others, expanding our understanding of the immense complexity and power of the brain can only enrich all of us. Add to this an increased supplementary process to aid the brain in its resilience shines light into the darkest corners of its miraculous functions. Most importantly it will be the brain, not us, that finally puts to use our efforts to aid its glorious and amazing existence. So, there we are, our brains, aiding ours and other’s brains. Again, who is really in charge here?

REFERENCES:

Neural Stems Cells in the Adult Human Brain http://bit.ly/dtKV6g

Stromal Cell transplantation for traumatic brain injury repair. http://bit.ly/9fw9PX

Stem cell therapy in central nervous system injury. http://bit.ly/aqxsUr

CREDIT:

Image of Common Egret, from photo collection of Waddell Robey (c)1969, 2010 All Rights Reserved

Cartoon Image of the inquiring brain: From: http://bit.ly/WzA4H

EXPLORATION’S DNA: The Questing Thread

October 27, 2010

Nowhere in the annals of human history will you find that explorations were one-man acts. Yes, a single individual may ultimately get the major credit, but a total research into the events of an exploration will show a long human chain of both supportive and discouraging actions. People supply that support as well as discouragement and all contribute to the success or the failure of the exploratory event. We should never settle for a history or biography that does not show that thread of human involvement in a given epoch. As the title of this blog article announces, we believe this interaction comprises exploratory DNA.

As we all know, DNA is the thread of all life. It exists in unique form in every type of life in existence here and throughout the universe. Oh yes, there is life out there. Logic, the very orderly happenstance of how life began and developed here, and the fact that it just cannot be exclusive to just one planet in an entire universe establishes that fact. If the preceding were not true, most likely we humans would have never made it. And it is this latter acknowledgement that also applies to exploratory events. Without that unique supportive chain, most likely those historic events would have never transpired. So we perceive an exploration DNA that we term, the “questing thread.”

We are all a part of the questing thread, and it is also a part of us. In several earlier blog articles here, I have referred to the exploration ethic; an inborn drive to explore. It remains with us throughout our lives, but like some aspects of DNA, our lifestyle, our cultural and natural settings can impede some of its benefits; and so it goes with that urge to explore. Some of us respond in different ways to support and benefit from that questing drive. It is vital and a critical part of humankind’s evolution. Regardless, we have a duty to not let this inherent drive be diminished or fully stifled.

A current and classic example of Exploratory DNA is our space exploration program. The history is long, glorious and eloquent. On the surface there are a host of brave heroes as scientists, engineers, astronauts and, last but not least, all of those support personnel. They are the critical DNA elements who enable a gallant few to carry all of us many steps further into the future. They sustain and keep together the questing thread. This is not easy, and the thread is often exposed to attempts to sever it or to starve it out by diminishing political and fiscal support. This is what is happening to this program now. It poses a critical threat to all those elements, especially the support staff who are the ones that keep the entire program alive and healthy. It should be obvious that we cannot let the questing thread be severed or disassembled. Should this come about, then a major influence in human evolution will have been lost.

No, do not think you are not part of that thread. Unless you are running, blindfolded and backwards into a dark, dark past, you are a vital part of it. It is your interest, your personal support, your cheers and well wishes that boost the energy of the questing thread. Do not lose faith, do not turn away; instead reach out and enrich the DNA by pulling newcomers into the thread. Do it today, and do it especially on the first of November when once more the thread comes alive raising all our hopes and putting tremendous power back into our Exploration DNA.

CREDIT:

Image of natives guiding French explorers in Indiana. Courtesy Wikipedia> http://bit.ly/cRXR8o

The cartoon image of DNA is from: http://www.familyhistory101.com/dna.html

CONTACT Of The Real Kind

October 23, 2010

Oh boy this is another one of those mystery talks with an extra-terrestrial, right? No, this is about real contacts that occur every day, but most that we either overlook or ignore.

If we are alive and conscious, even in sleep, we are explorers in the sense that our brains and our sensory organs are always on some level of alertness. Also, like explorers, we can chose to follow-up on an event or chose to ignore it; even subconsciously. Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • Good Mourning Dove: It is early morning, and in the Spring. You are sipping on your coffee and looking out your window. A Mourning Dove alights on the outside sill of your window and looks in. You are startled, but you look at the bird and for a brief instance there is direct eye contact between you and the Dove. It is not fleeting. You and the bird hold your gazes looking directly into each other’s eyes. In that brief time you sense a feeling of communion, just like you might feel as you look into the eyes of your child, spouse or loved one. Then the bird looks away, but remains for a while longer. It never looks back at you.  You experience a sense of a disconnect, of loss.
  • Squid Sessions: For a several years, you live on an island in the Caribbean Sea. You enjoy a daily, morning snorkel around a coral reef just off your beach. Each morning you are met by anywhere from 3 to 5 Caribbean Reef Squid. They form up side by side and move together toward you then stop. During this entire interval they have maintained direct eye contact with you. At the same time they manage, in some way to communicate quickly with each other to keep up their formation and unity. The first meeting was alarming, and you started to turn away, but when they stopped you stopped. The eye contact was sustained and direct. In this case it is you who finally moves on. This becomes a routine and every morning that you snorkel, the squid come out to meet you. There is never any aggressive behavior and the routine and the sustained eye contact always occur. Like the Dove experience you begin to sense a link, a communication between you and the squid. You always leave slowly and with some regret, but look forward to the next meeting.
  • Squirrely Days: Where you live now, there is a bounty of small wildlife, especially gray squirrels.  Now usually these creatures immediately run to the nearest tree or light pole and put it between them and you. One day, as this begins to happen you whistle a little chirping noise. The squirrel stops, turns and raises up onto it hind legs, and direct eye contact occurs. Like with the Dove, the contact is brief, but totally direct. That sense of a brief union, of communication occurs. The spell is broken as the squirrel turns and slowly heads for a tree or light pole.

Well, there are many, many other examples, and I am sure animal biologists and wildlife specialists will have a variety of scientific and behavior explanations.  I do not doubt them, but I think what is also occurring is a moment of direct communication of some sort during those direct eye contacts. There is no wariness in the behavior or eyes of the creature, and after I become adjusted to it, there is none from me either. In my mind there is something we are mutually sharing that allows those brief eye to eye exchanges. Yes, I have the same type of silent exchanges with my pets and even with the wild animals I helped raise. These latter instances are not surprising and can be expected, but the others, of the same nature, are both surprising and fascinating.

Most amazing, this is not an experience that could be explained by animals and humans in an urban environment. Certainly, the squid are not in an urban environment, and I have also been in deep wilderness areas and had similar direct eye to eye experiences with wildlife in those regions. Alligators, Cotton-Mouth Moccasins (no hiss, no bite), a variety of owls, and many others have joined me in these exchanges.

Is there some unique genetic link? I do not know. Is it because I do not behave like a predator? Maybe, but not likely. Is it because there is a link, genetic or otherwise that is an often neglected, overlooked or overridden? Perhaps, and if true, then the concept of a chain of life that threads its way through all life forms is plausible. Accepting this, following it, and practicing it could completely change humankind’s shared existence with all other life forms on this planet. It may also prove to be a vital theory to be applied across the universe as we explore and discover life in our galaxy and beyond.

On your next walk on the wild side, stop, look for that eye contact and remember it. In my opinion you have just shared something very unique, very private and very specific in that eye-to-eye moment between you and the creature you met. I think you have managed to cross an invisible bridge of communion with all life.