I was in the military, on guard duty in the jungles of Central America one night. I remember observing, under the yellow tinge of a sodium light, a female praying mantis and its young (or smaller partner?). I spent a while watching them and how such a complex set of decisions (about eating, moving, interacting, protecting, sleeping, mating, defence etc.) were held in such a tiny brain. They would only live for a year, at most, (from being born – no idea how old these were) and I wondered if they were happy or would have a life worth living and how much longer it would have to live.
My questions were abruptly answered. My colleague crept up, sprayed them with insect repellent, and laughed. The struggles that these creatures had gone through in their shortened life and the nonsense-icle, purposeless ending, with no justice, karma or follow up to look forward to or face, for them or him.
There are numerous other examples that are equally relatable. A youth, rampaging through a flowerbed and pulling them up, feeling proud that s/he has impressed her/his mates, with total disregard for the effort required to create it and no consideration to the defencelessness of his target or the weak, pathetic lack of discipline for her/his actions or thoughtlessness for the consequences or re-creation task.
The one I think of, is Galileo Galilei and the Catholic church. The father of modern science needs wide shoulders, to bear all of us who can but stand on them in admiration. And he worked 400 years ago. His solitary achievements, inventions, discoveries and work made him the hero he is, and yet a brute picked him up, incapacitated him and stuck him in prison/confinement for his Copernican supporting enlightenments, prevented him from speaking out, and he died there. One wonders what the church achieved during this incarceration compared to what Galileo would have, alone, if he were free, or what it achieved in his lifetime, worldwide compared to what that one man achieved.
The discoveries that followed, because of him, have led to other scientists saving millions of lives and so much more. The Jesuits were supposed to lead the world in scientific enquiry and astronomy, and they did this to this great astronomer. I think something happened about 2000 years ago like this, according to legend.
The Catholic church has made attempts to apologise and erect a statue, which was put on hold. In the museum of Galileo in Italy, there is a relic on display for all to see, from the Pope (for which it is but a short distance) up. A reminder of the past. Galileo’s middle finger! Isn’t that ironic.
I want to encourage all those who read this, make the most of your life, and be inspired by the many founding fathers of science who mostly achieved so much in such a short time, alone under difficult conditions in ancient times. Don’t waste a year, month, week, day, not even an hour. It is so precious. If need be, get an organiser, manage your time, reward your efforts and move quickly on from failures or disappointments. Prioritise, focus on what’s important and frequently think about what would happen if you left sooner that you expected and what your legacy might be. Will others be provided for or have to sort through a lot of stuff? Don’t have regrets – sort them, put them to rest or make a mass apology and move on. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.