In November 1961 Frank Drake, a young radio astronomer scribbled an equation on a blackboard. That equation was to become the Drake equation, an equation that estimates the number of alien civilisations mankind could detect. At the time the data required to fill the variables was incomprehensible, save for one known element, but roll on to the present day. We now know more than we could ever dream of and just a few days ago, after 5 years in space, NASA's Juno spacecraft entered Jupiter’s gravitational field in a search for answers into the formation of Jupiter and the universe.
Impressive as this “most historic event in human history” may be to some, I couldn't help but feel in the pit of my stomach that the $1.1 billion US dollars could have been put to better use here on earth, now, when people are dying from starvation and curable diseases, are homeless and are suffering, and so so much more. Not one piece of me was excited as I thought how far off track we are that we can send a spacecraft hundreds of millions of miles into space but cannot come together to solve solvable problems for millions of people on our own planet.
My curiosity was also raised as I wondered what mankind would do if (or when) a habitable planet is found, or indeed alien life. Will the rich abandon earth in search of an elite civilisation? Will we avoid solving our own problems here on earth and simply deplete another planet instead? Will we destroy any alien life found? After all border controls, immigration and global warming appear to be hard enough for us to manage already.
And so I came back to one question. Is all of this spending, proving, dominance and triumph just one big awful game of avoidance? Show a picture of the spacecraft to a mother with a dying child in her arms, show a picture of the $1.1 billion dollars spent to a country in crisis with people starving, to the broken families forced to flee war torn countries. Show a picture of these things to one thousand homeless people and see if they share in the joy. When will be begin to question why we are willing to let people die over satisfying man's curiosity and need to dominate.
The answers to mankind’s questions lies within the soul of each of us, always has and always will. When will we see that we are all the same? Buddhism teaches us to view everyone as our mother. A mother gave all of us life and even if she was not a good mother thereafter, she still carried us and gave birth to us. Buddhists believe that any one of us could be the reincarnation of a mother and with that belief everyone is treated with equal love and compassion. Christianity teaches us that God is everywhere, meaning, he in each of us. The Torah teaches us that the light of Christ is within us all, and we need only look to the heavens above to see that we are part of something absolutely incredible. Yet we put up barriers in our daily lives to distract us from fears that surround us, which sadly means we place ego before love. By doing so we accept suffering while we gaze in awe at spaceships flying high above us. Does it matter how a planet came to be, or how old it is? Or, does what is happening in the present moment to real people matter more? Of course there has to be a balance we are told...and there does, but in the balance of power who decides collectively that lives are worth trading. Ever.
“There is but one cause of human failure and that is man's lack of faith in his true Self” William James writes. So as you look to the skies above you, ask yourself this; are you satisfied with who you are and why you are here. If you are not, is that your lesson in this lifetime, or do we need to continue to spend billions of dollars to try and find those answers for you at the expense of others...by which time you may be dead anyway! It is time to take personal responsibility and to open our eyes and our hearts at what is really going on. At any moment we can all choose to be better people. At any moment we can start living consciously with love and respect for everyone including our self. At any moment we can light the skies above us by letting our own inner light shine bright to share with others.