An anonymous op-ed from the flight deck

Hi there. I’m an anonymous senior flight official who works for the airline.

Your pilot is deliberately trying to crash this plane. He’s a little crazy and unhinged. In the early days, there were whispers of having him committed and never letting him get on a plane, but we didn’t want to cause a fuss with corporate.

But don’t worry. There are several of us here who, while we believe in the principles the pilot has espoused, are nevertheless doing everything we can to curb the pilot’s more murderous intentions.

We’ll keep working to keep all of you passengers safe while the pilot continues trying to crash the plane. We’ll keep doing this until he stops being the pilot… one way or the other.

So just relax. You’re in our hands. Go about your business and don’t mind the sudden changes in altitude.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin obviously hated America!

Some people, including Marco Rubio and commentators on Fox News, are very upset that the new movie “First Man” about Neil Armstrong doesn’t explicitly show the exact moment the American flag was planted in the lunar soil. As if a film about Americans landing on the Moon doesn’t celebrate America.

They may be shocked to learn that when Neil and Buzz Aldrin took off from the surface, the lunar module’s ascent engine blast knocked the flag over… AND THEY DIDN’T IMMEDIATELY RETURN TO FIX IT!!!

Separating families at the border… in a different context.

Let’s try this with a bit of a different context.

A Jewish family in Germany in the 1930s flees their home country to get away from Nazi thugs and the growing violence against them. They’ve heard horror stories of Jews being taken away and put in work camps. Their shops and homes are being vandalized and jackbooted paramilitary men are beating them in the streets.

They scrape together what they can and board a ship to America because Germany will undoubtedly attack England, so England is too close. They know if they stay they will die, even though their family has lived there for generations.

When they get to America, the authorities take the children away, and when the parents ask for asylum to escape the violence in Germany, the authorities lock them up in a detention center, saying it will be months or even years before their case is heard.

They don’t know where their children are. Their young children don’t know where they are.

Finally, a government official announces that the only way they’ll see their kids again is if they give up their claim to asylum and agree to be sent back immediately to Germany, where they face certain death.

Explain to me how this would not be a brutal thing for a country to do.
It will take a long time to wash this stain, and even if we do, it won’t ever completely go away. It’s a stain on the soul. The best we can do is re-think who we want to be: decent human beings, or brutal thugs.

It’s our choice.

If we choose brutality, they are not the “animals.” We are.

(And let’s not forget we did turn away Jews trying to seek asylum in America, and so did a few other countries. They wound up going back. And they died.)

How the hell is Daylight Saving Time still a thing?

Why doesn’t the rest of the country do what Florida has done? (Gods, who would have ever thought I’d say THAT?)

The sunshine state voted to move to Daylight Saving Time and stay there. Unless the federal government steps in and forces it to, Florida won’t fall back to standard time in a few months, it’ll stay on standard time year round.

The time change is stupid, silly, and pointless. Let’s do away with it. Either stay on DST or standard time, but do away with this idiocy.

“Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver explained it best:

Imagine a world where there is no death

death

Imagine a world where there is no death.

Or better yet, imagine a world where there is no concept of death.

People would die, but it just wouldn’t enter into the experience of anyone around them.

On this imaginary world, when someone passes they disappear into a puff of air. The deceased’s loved ones don’t miss them because when someone dies, they are also erased from all memory.

People only notice that there is a new uninhabited house or new things which have no apparent owner just lying around to be taken.

Art, literature, and poetry would be very different because a lot of it here deals with death, either our own or of people we love.

Relationships would probably not consist of the strong bonds we find between family and loved ones here. In fact, the concept of a family might be hard to visualize.

And history would be impossible. What are you studying in history except for the doings and accomplishments of people who lived and died? If one had no concept of death, and immediately forgot those who were gone, history would be impossible to create.

There probably wouldn’t be religion in such a world, at least, not a religion like anything we know. Religion is primarily a function of helping us deal with the idea that one day we will no longer exist. We dream of an afterlife of some kind to help assuage the terror of non-being, something that is difficult for us even to conceive.

So it seems to me we would barely have a civilization at all was it not for death. The awareness of death, knowing that it’s hanging over our heads, seems to be the precise thing that makes us human. That makes love possible. That creates art, literature, and history, and the willingness to build and do great things, to leave a legacy behind. It also enables us to understand and appreciate someone else’s legacy.

As Todd May writes in “Death,” “the fact that we die is the most important fact about us. There is nothing that has more weight in our lives.”

So, death may be scary. We find so many fascinating (and sometimes frightening) ways to whistle past the graveyard, but it makes us human. Even if one doesn’t believe in an afterlife, we still believe in death. It still drives us to build, to do, to accomplish, to love, to remember.

We would not be human beings without death.

The completely terrifying heat death of the universe is coming ever closer.

Imagine you are sitting in a room. It is a magic room, protecting you from time. It has windows at which there are the most powerful telescopes ever made, enabling you to see to the edge of the visible universe. You will be able to survive there and observe reality for trillions of years.

Trillions of light years beyond you, there is a point beyond which you cannot see. That is because the universe is expanding, and at the very edge of this expansion, stars are moving away from you – relatively speaking – at the speed of light, so they fall behind this dark event horizon, beyond which you will never be able to see.

But the universe is continuing to expand because there’s not enough matter in it to slow it down or reverse it. In fact, the expansion is increasing. That means the event horizon is moving closer to you all the time. The edge is always falling away from you. In a few million years, the farthest objects you know will become unseen and unknown.

This expansion will continue, and at some point, in the far future, you might never have known any such thing as other galaxies exist, because the closest ones will have moved away from you at the speed of light, falling out of your sight.

But it doesn’t stop there. Eventually, the farthest stars in the galaxy will expand beyond your view. Closer and closer the event horizon will come. You look through the telescopes in the windows of your magic room, and the farthest objects you can see are the outer planets. Beyond that, all is dark. There are no stars.

But still, the expansion goes on. The outer planets fall out of your sight. Then the inner planets. Then, even the sun. It is moving away from you at the speed of light.

And there in your room, the farther points on the earth would fall behind the ever-approaching event horizon. And then your town. Everyone you know and love is expanding away from you at the speed of light, lost forever from your view.

And then, eventually, the walls of your magic room would go dark. And there you would be, alone in the darkest cold and the coldest dark that could ever be, infinitely far away from everyone and everything else that ever existed.

Eventually, your limbs will expand away from you. Then your senses. Then whatever it is that makes you, you.

This cold, dark emptiness is the final entropy, the profound death that awaits all that has ever existed.

Sometimes, science is like a teenager whose girlfriend just broke up with him.

A radio dream that didn’t involve dead air

Old radio micI had a dream the other night. I was downtown (I assume L.A., but it wasn’t clear) when some kind of unknown, toxic substance was released. Because I was so close to the scene, I was excited to call into KNX and be the on-site reporter.

In the course of reporting, authorities began blocking off the area, and men in chemical suits started corralling us into an intersection. I was still excited to be the on-air eyewitness… until an official told us that while they didn’t know¬†what the substance was, people who were nearer to the initial release were already dying, and they believed we were also already fatally exposed.

“We’ve just been informed that we are casualties,” I said on the air. “I’ll stay on the line as long as I can and describe what’s happening, but I’m told that as soon as I begin bleeding from the eyes, nose, and mouth, I’ll only have about 15 minutes of life left.”

I stopped worrying about dying and focused on reporting. Then I started imagining all the awards I’d get posthumously. And then I woke up.

The lesson I took is that if I’m going to die, might as well make it as dramatic as possible.