6 April 1997
The other night I saw the Hale-Bopp comet and then later that same night on the late news, "they" told me again, as I had read at least 10 times already, that the comet would not appear about the Earth for another 4000 years and in both cases, in print and spoken, it was said so matter-of-fact.
Yesterday, I read an article about the space probe which has now left our solar system, the only manmade object to every do so, and in the article they said that it would be 10,000 years before it came close to another star and then it might be millions of years before it even reached the outskirts of another star. 10,000 years! A million years! When I read this, I could not help but feel some sense of loneliness for the probe out there, all alone in the silence and darkness, going on and on.
Today, Jack Kente Cooke, the owner of the Washington Redskins football team died at the age of 84. When I heard it on the news, "they" did not say when he would be back about the Earth.
84 years. 4000 years. A million years. To the comet, Jack Kente Cook's whole life was not much more than a blink of an eye. Like one of those small towns just off a super highway that can be missed if you blink or are looking the wrong way when you come upon it and for some reason all this talk of time has jiggled something loose inside me. Jarred something or started something.
Thinking about time.
Oh, I know that I have only addressed one end of the time scale and that some particles, created in cosmic showers or in those large race track machines, only last or "live" for millions of a second, but somehow seconds or millions of a second are harder to relate to than years. 84 years. 4000 years.
4000 years from now. 4000 years from now. I will be long, long dead and buried and long, long forgotten. Perhaps some computer record will exist somewhere with my name on it for I do not under estimated bureaucrats and the anal retentive tendencies when it comes to records and forms but have to wonder what it will be like here, at this same spot, 4000 years from now. Will there be anyone here to gaze up in the sky and see the Hale-Bopp comet when it returns then? Will we be able to send a space ship to intercept it and bring it to earth to sacrifice it to some need we will have then?
4000 years and 84 years. What is the life of the Hale-Bopp comet? I guess it is infinite or as infinite as the universe which still seems in debate but perhaps the comet will eventually run into something and be lost but certainly, it seems to have been born to a much longer life that Jack Kente Cook although I know you cannot compare the two. One is a hunk of ice and dirt and the other a hunk of water.
In a way, it doesn't seem fair. A comet, sailing about the solar system for millions of years, around and around and Jack Kente Cooke getting to sail about for a mere 84 years.
I wonder if the comet gets wiser given all the time it has? I wonder if I would get wiser, if I had 4000 years or would it still not be enough.
Perhaps that is the point. 84 years doesn't seem like enough when there are so many things with much longer life spans and yet, I was told once, or have read, that our life span sits directly in the middle of the life span scale, between the very, very short, like millionths of a second and the life span of the sun or the universe. Magnitudes and magnitudes of time and we in the middle. So perhaps it is fair and I would not learn anymore about where we are and why, if I lived for thousands of years.
For more Ron Stultz writings, click here.