On an April Fools’ Day long before the one my wife chose to vacate our home, the local newspaper ran a large photo of alien spacecraft hovering in the night sky.
The headline indicated UFOs had visited our small Ohio town.
I was captivated.
Just a young boy.
I had never seen or heard “War of the Worlds.”
We were still years away from Will Smith very believably punching a large alien trying to emerge from its wrecked aircraft with a sharp-witted “Welcome to Earth” in “Independence Day.”
Even further away was M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs.” You know the movie. It’s the one with aliens that will die if they get too much water on them. They are smart enough to conquer the physics of interstellar travel but are not smart enough NOT to invade a planet with a surface covered 71 percent by water, which regularly experiences rainfall and has microscopic water droplets suspended in the breathable air in most geographic locations.
I wasn’t scared of aliens. I didn’t know better.
All I knew was that I was fascinated with the unknown outside our planet. Outside our solar system. Outside our galaxy.
I’ve spent countless nights staring into the night sky.
Every single star representing a solar system. Every solar system representing an opportunity for more life to exist.
Maybe there’s someone out there seeing our sun in the night sky. Maybe there’s someone out there wondering whether we’re here. Maybe there are more people like us.
The newspaper story was a joke, of course. But I didn’t want it to be.
I don’t believe in conspiracy theories.
I’ve met people who have been inside Area 51. There are MANY secret things there, they say. Things they won’t talk about. But there are no extraterrestrials or wrecked alien spaceships inside, they say.
Of course, that’s EXACTLY what people protecting the secret would say.
In my experience, things that sound like far-fetched nonsense typically prove out to be exactly that.
But I do believe in math. Math is the most-provable thing I know of. Pure truth.
And here’s an elementary breakdown of the math.
Why There Might Be Aliens
The nearest thing to Earth besides our moon is the planet Mars. Mars is 34.2 million miles away. Depending on how much fuel we’re willing to burn we can get an unmanned spacecraft to Mars in anywhere from 150-300 days.
We cannot figure out how to safely send humans to and from Mars. It hasn’t been tried.
We cannot get to the next-closest thing in our solar system.
This is where I need you to stay with me.
Earth is in a solar system. The thing with nine planets orbiting the sun. (Eat shit, science! Pluto is STILL a planet in my universe! My very educated mother just served us nine pizzas!)
This is where brains start exploding…
There are an estimated 100 BILLION solar systems in the Milky Way galaxy. Our galaxy.
The Hubble Space Telescope, combined with the best computer models in the world, estimate 500 BILLION galaxies.
There’s no point in even typing out 50 trillion. Our brains can barely process a number as large as one billion.
Hopefully, you see my point. Even if we eliminate 99 percent of those solar systems due to inhospitable living conditions, we’re still left with (if my lousy math skills are correct) about 500 billion opportunities for life to exist.
And we can’t even get to Mars.
A Table For One
I had breakfast at one of my favorite little mom-and-pop breakfast diners this morning.
“Just one?” they ask.
“Yeah. Just me.”
That’s always embarrassing.
There was a wife or girlfriend on the other side of the table from every guy in the small eatery.
I always wonder how many women are out there like me. Maybe wondering whether some guy just like me is eating alone somewhere. Maybe wondering whether they’re the only single person staying in on a Saturday night and wishing they weren’t—or at least not doing so alone.
We crave connection. Maybe not all of us. But most of us.
I hope you believe that I believe I’m not just going to be this cooped-up single guy forever. I have every confidence there will be someone on the other side of the breakfast table from me someday.
I think about that girl sometimes.
Where is she now?
Does she live close?
Do I already know her?
That connection, however long or short, will change my life.
That’s scary in a way. To invite more change into a life where change has been my worst enemy.
I don’t like whining here about being alone. And I hope it doesn’t seem like whining.
Especially after being on my soapbox yesterday about choosing ourselves and taking personal responsibility for the state of our lives.
It’s just another lonesome benediction. Can I get a witness? Written to some bluesy, soulful southern tunes being belted by the magnificent Kristy Lee who I finally got to meet and hear live last night.
Not so different really than those late summer nights in my youth staring into the majesty of our sky.
Into the universe. I can see for miles.
Just hoping there’s someone like me out there. Believing in my existence. Hoping I’m here, too.
I hope that person exists.
And I hope there are aliens.
You know. Nice ones.