Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Sometimes I feel sorry for inanimate objects. A saucer lacking a cup. Shoes without laces. A portable fan left stuck in the corner of an empty closet, an innocent mechanical victim of the cold December chill. These things are missing that which will make them, if not whole, at least content.

Planets, too. I think planets are lonely. Maybe it's because I've been reading a fair bit of science-fiction books recently, but on the way back to Baguio from Manila the other day, I stared out at the empty stretches of grassland that periodically line the landscape, and the lack of anything other than green suddenly reminded me of a planet, an empty one, and I realized that most planets, maybe all planets, other than Earth, are empty. There's nothing on them. No people. No cars. No billboards. No baseball diamonds. No lamposts lighting the way. Just...air. And ground. And mountains. And cold. And heat. These are actual, real places, these planets are, locales that we may in fact someday land on, geographical certainties that, even now, at this moment, are filled with billions of particles of cold, wet, hot and dry stuff, millions of molecules that would, in fact, stain our clothes and cloud our vision, were we there, but without anything living to anchor them, to root them, how can we conceive of these planets as anything but lonely? Abandoned, almost.

That, I can get behind -- the fact that these planets were once populated, in the distant past, perhaps, but are now abandoned. Because then I can almost feel a tangible sense of sympathy for them; they were once occupied, but now lay vacant. Somebody, some extraterrestrial species, perhaps, once loved them, drove across their plains, skiied down their mountains, harvested their crops, and then, because of necessity, or boredom, or simply seeking another diversion, they moved on, leaving Mars and Jupiter, Mercury and Venus to silently mope amongst themselves.

How can all these planets exist, as we know they do, and yet be so utterly barren? Thousands and thousands of miles with nothing to show for it.

At night, in bed, restless for sleep, I sometimes think that there are, in fact, forms of life that exist on these planets, on all of them, but they are so unique from our own way of living, so diverse in their composition, that our earthly scientists currently have no realistic, feasible means of detecting their presence. Perhaps they breathe different kinds of air, these Martians and Venuians; perhaps they sustain themselves on mere wisps of water floating through an atmosphere we cannot yet see, let alone comprehend.

Thinking that gives me some comfort. For not only are we not alone, meaning us humans, but neither are they alone, meaning those planets. They have somebody making tracks in the sand, paths in the snow. They are not mere mountains and valleys. They are being used in the best possible sense, made viable, even without our detection or knowledge. Their cups have found saucers, and their fans are blowing once again, no matter the season.