AN ATHEIST’S MEDITATION
Recently, I’ve been rereading Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. I first read it a long time ago when I was failing to complete my first attempt at graduate school in Carbondale, Illinois. And of that whole book of which my memories are quite fond, I came across this brief piece of dialogue that struck me as true for myself and others at different times of our lives. Doc Reefy tells George Willard’s dying mother, “I had come to the time in my life when prayer became necessary and so I invented gods and prayed to them. I did not say my prayers in words nor did I kneel down but sat perfectly still in my chair.” Since I know for a fact that all gods that people believe in are made up, Doc Reefy’s words are quite powerful.
Well, there are no longer gods in my life to sit still in a chair for, but I’m learning, at age 69, how to sit still on a park bench (or in my living room at home) and silently open myself in a sensible and wonderful way, and, some days, down by the Columbia River now, I can so clear my mind of all gods and so inhabit my body that I become blissful and want to stand and reel, twirling down the street with my face tilted to the sun. And, though I don’t actually reel down the street, I stand and walk with squinted eyes, or sometimes closed when no one is approaching to run into, and I find myself in a state of bliss when I get into these meditative states of mind, and it’s a very wonderful sense of being alive that rushes in to fill me up and every animate and inanimate thing around me verges on the mystical. Who needs gods who are mere copies of mortals with all a mortal’s failings?
GENETIC TESTING—MAKING SPACE FOR IT
The trip to Mars and back is taxing NASA’s imagination. Below you’ll find a few snippets of info from a “NASA document on crew health” that I clipped from a news article released by the Associated Press who obtained it, using the freedom of information act that liberals passed way back when in the Vietnam era. Thank you, AP, for your diligence in obtaining the info and thank you, liberals, for putting such a law in place so that the AP can use it.
The trip to Mars and back will take three long years. Being still a healthy, normally-functioning male animal, one of the two items that really pricked up my ears (pardon the pun) was sex—what’ll a mixed sex crew do about that ancient temptation or, at least, for privacy for masturbatory urges? Read on MacDuff:
How do you get rid of the body of a dead astronaut on a three-year mission to Mars and back.
When should the plug be pulled on a critically ill astronaut who is using up precious oxygen and endangering the rest of the crew? Should NASA employ DNA testing to weed out astronauts who might get a disease on a long flight?
Sex is not mentioned in the document and has long been almost a taboo topic at NASA. Williams said the question of sex in space is not a matter of crew health but a behavioral issue that will have to be taken up by others at NASA.
Mars-bound astronauts will not always be able to rely on instructions from Mission Control, since it would take nearly a half-hour for a question to be asked and an answer to come back via radio.
NASA will consider whether astronauts must undergo preventive surgery, such as an appendectomy, to head off medical emergencies during a mission, and whether astronauts should be required to sign living wills with end-of-life instructions.
Already, NASA is considering genetic screening in choosing crews on the long-duration missions. That is now prohibited.
The one truly most interesting issue NASA is thinking about, as far as the human race is concerned, is genetic testing to weed out potential health problems. Here’s the elephant nose under the circus tent. Not that I oppose genetic testing. I’m semi for it. I don’t believe I would have minded much had I been aborted in my first trimester if it turned out that I had a 90% chance of becoming a serial killer or of having MS. It’s what would have happened in my later years had I survived that would be causing me the most travail now.
I know that what I’ve just said will cause great anguish to serial killers and people with serious health problems and those that love them, but the excruciating anguish is because these genetic defects survived the first trimester. Once one of us human animals is conscious, of course the whole damn debate takes on different dimensions and different sensibilities, and I know that and I hope so do you. Some day, if we survive overpopulation, we’ll need to discuss these issues like reasonably reasonable adults. I doubt that most of the human species is up to that discussion yet. I’ll long ago have returned to the same state of being as that of an aborted fetus by that time.