Alone in the Universe on National Nothing Day

I’m writing this post because I just found out that tomorrow is National Nothing Day, so I won’t have a chance to write it then. Ever heard of it? The legend is that a San Francisco Examiner humor columnist, Harold Pullman Coffin, created it in 1973, probably in reaction to the proliferation of holidays in general. National Nothing Day falls on January 16 and “observing” it means you do nothing all day.

How you do nothing is up to you. The holiday from doing leads into the idea of nothingness, one example of which might be outer space. The notion that nothing is out there and that we’re alone in the universe is always up for debate. In fact, in a recently posted science news item, the author announced a study finding that there are “only” a few hundred billion stars out there, not 2 trillion as previously estimated. Therefore, that makes it more likely earthlings are alone in the universe.

No kidding, that’s what the author concluded. I couldn’t find that conclusion in the study’s findings, but I didn’t read much between that and the introduction. It’s pretty technical.

I’d like to hear your thoughts about whether we’re alone in the universe. I don’t know whether life is out there on other planets, but I hope so. The feeling of being alone in the universe sometimes makes me a little gloomy.

I’m reminded of quotes from Men in Black 2 (what doesn’t remind me of Men in Black movies?). Agent J asks his partner, Agent T, “T, when was the last time we just looked at the stars? Then he asks, “Ever get the feeling we’re alone in the universe?” Agent T says “Yes” and then a second later says “No” because he thinks the questions are some kind of test he needs to pass. When Agent J offers to buy him a piece of pie, Agent T puts his arm around him and says reassuringly, “Hey, you’re not alone in the universe.”

You could ask why Agent J, one of the Men in Black agents who police and monitor all alien life on planet earth, would ask such a question at all? He’s busting the chops of beings from other planets every day. I think what he means is that he feels alone for a different reason. He had to give up his identity as a regular person in order to be one of the Men in Black. No one can ever know him—or love him. You’ll have to watch the movie to see how that works out.

On the other hand, feeling alone in the universe is a pretty big deal to many people. In fact, for astronomers and non-scientists, it’s intriguing to speculate about it. What are humans doing here anyway? What is earth, besides being a planet in one of the many galaxies? What other life forms could be out there and what’s our relationship to them?

What if earth is some sort of exile or prison planet? Remember the 1981 movie, Escape from New York, with Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken and Lee Van Cleef as Hauk? Manhattan is the maximum-security prison for the entire country. I’m not knocking New York City; we loved our visit there several years ago. I got a senior discount on my ticket for the visit to the top of the Empire State Building.

“I’m not jumping off of this building!”–Agent J in Men in Black 3 on the Chrysler Building in New York City

Another example is Men in Black 3, in which the heavy, Boris the Animal (“It’s just Boris!”), an intergalactic psychopathic alien, was imprisoned in Lunar Max, a supermax prison on the dark side of our moon.

The Ancient Alien theorists have ideas that are just as speculative. We’re the Martians; we have alien DNA zipped into our own. Some people believe they are abducted by aliens, who conduct weird experiments on them. The kind of questions that arise echo that of the character Newton in Men in Black 2: “What’s up with anal probing? Aliens travel billions of light years just to check out our…” Newton gets abruptly interrupted by the impatient Agents K and J, but I think his question is good.

I’ve noticed there a lot more TV shows with UFO content now. Some of them talk about recently declassified documents from the military and the government. People are interviewed who have been told never to reveal what they’ve seen and heard—by supposedly real Men in Black and military officers. The witnesses come forward and discuss their experiences with fear on their faces and a few of them probably wish they’d been neuralyzed.

I don’t know what to think of it, except that sometimes I wonder if maybe we’d be better off if we were truly alone in the universe. By the way, remember to do nothing tomorrow. This will confuse the aliens.

Author: James Amos

I'm a retired consult-liaison psychiatrist. I navigated the path in a phased retirement program through the hospital where I was employed. I was fully retired as of June 30, 2020. This blog chronicles my journey.

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