Slamming the Door on Summer (and Space) Travel

If you’ve noticed that the balcony has been eerily silent for the past eight weeks, it’s because the Loud Mouth has been traveling exhaustively—and staying in places where folks really make noise: hotels. Day or night, I was frequently jolted out of a dead sleep or deep thought by a slamming guest room door. Blam!

At home, we generally don’t slam doors near other folks’ bedrooms. Why do we do it when we’re on the road? Do we forget that hotel rooms are bedrooms, too? Blam! I haven’t the slightest idea. My guess is that they haven’t read the karma memo: Whatever you do will be done to you. When you disrespect others’ peace, you’ve written a spiritual requisition for your peace to be disturbed. Blam!

After weeks of enduring this annoying racket in a variety of gorgeous hotels, I decided to do my part to help my floor mates avoid their karmic fate. If you’re ever in a hotel room and someone has slipped a handwritten note under every door saying, “Thanks for not slamming your door! ( Your neighbors appreciate you”, just smile. The Loud Mouth is probably down the hall trying to get some sleep or write her next book.

Being on the road really makes me appreciate being home! Right now, I’m watching people lined up to board the Tall Ships. I’d love to join them, but it looks like rain. Obviously, they didn’t spend most of yesterday in a hair salon, as I did. So I’ll just watch the ships pull out of the harbor from the comfort of my desk chair.

Never mind. A few umbrellas just popped open. Watching people get drenched is not exactly my idea of great entertainment. Guess I’ll catch up on the news, instead.

Here’s a goody: Did you see today’s Associated Press report about life on Mars? How time flies. Apparently, it’s been ten years since scientists announced the possibility of Martian life. Looks as if a few of them have green cheese on their faces. After a decade of studying the evidence from a 4.5 billion year old meteorite that fell onto Antarctica, most scientists now agree that the claim doesn’t hold water—even though billions of years ago, Mars did.

Now that it’s quiet enough to think deep thoughts, the Loud Mouth is compelled to ask, “What’s up with that, my scientist brothers? Can we pull out to the wide shot a little bit, embrace Life as well as…uh, life?”

Chicken Soup’s Mark Victor Hansen tells this fascinating story about being with his grandmother when she made her transition. Doctors had just weighed her before she passed. They also weighed her immediately after she stopped breathing. Hansen noted that his grandmother weighed less; and he concluded that the Life within her must have weighed something.

Hey, I’m not a scientist; but I don’t think that breath has weight, does it? On the other hand, I think that Hansen was onto something by making the distinction between his grandma’s body and her Life. Was she the lifeless shell that stayed on planet earth—or the part that left the body? It’s a distinction that few of us make.

Life is always defined in terms that we know: physical terms. Bodies and other visible organisms are physical. But are they Life itself? It’s the kind of stuff Spiritual Sleuths love to explore.

I began my search by looking at how many definitions we have for the word “life”. What struck me were the wide variations. The 10 definitions in Wikipedia’s Wictionary ( dramatically illustrate this point:

  1. The state that precedes death and follows birth or conception.
  2. In biology, a status given to an entity including animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and sometimes viruses, etc, with the properties of replication and metabolism.
  3. In philosophy, the essence of the manifestation and the foundation of the being.
  4. In phenomenology, the subjective and inner manifestation of the individual.
  5. In Christianity, the essence of God, its own revelation.
  6. A worthwhile existence. e.g. He gets up early in the morning, works all day long, and even on weekends, hardly sees his family. That’s no life!
  7. The world in general, existence. (in life you should remember…)
  8. Something which is inheritantly part of a person’s existence, such as their job, their family, their loved one, etc.
  9. (colloquial) A sentence imprisoning a convict until his or her death. More formally phrased life sentence.
  10. The duration during which something operates, e.g.This light bulb has a long life.

Clearly, each of us views the word differently, depending upon our vantage point, our beliefs, and whether we’re sitting in the orchestra section or the second balcony of the world theater. Up close, we view life as only that which we can detect with our senses or microscopes. Our perception is limited to our relationship to the physical world. Those in the nose-bleed section, however, can see much more, frequently, they can even peep behind the curtain. Which is the grander, more comprehensive picture? Which puts everything in greater perspective?

A couple of years ago, when Florida was being battered by one hurricane after another, I called my friend Phil in Tampa to see how he was faring. As often happens during conversations about extreme weather, we speculated about the cause of it all. Mankind has been doing this for centuries. According to renowned theologians, that’s how we developed the myth that violent weather was punitively inflicted on us from a wrath-filled, vindictive killer who “lives” in the sky.

I wasn’t going to entertain that limited notion of God as a satanic fiend; so Phil and I considered the possibility that space exploration—and residue from the gases, fuels, and other debris spewing from the spacecraft—might disturb the atmosphere enough to spawn deadly storms.

“What gets me,” Phil said, “is that they’re up there looking for life on other planets, and they never find anything.”

“Really?” I wondered. “How do we know they haven’t found life on another planet? Granted, the astronauts and their cameras don’t see anything; but they’re looking for water, plants, and conditions that would sustain physical life.

“Frankly, I think life is invisible and takes many forms. What if life, in its invisible form, was chilling on another planet, guffawing at the dude in the Michelin Man suit, and wondering what in the world he was looking for?”

Phil laughed; but I was serious.

Is there life on Mars? The late Carl Sagan thought so ten years ago. A few experts still believe it, including NASA biochemist David McKay, whose NASA scientist brother thinks he’s dead wrong. That has to be the worst indignity, don’t you think? Your scientifically credentialed brother doesn’t even believe in you.

I contend that there’s life everywhere because I believe that God is everywhere—omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent. Yeah, yeah, I know that most folks think that God is sitting on a throne in the sky, heinously throwing down bolts of lightning, stirring up hurricanes and tsunamis, instigating diabolical ways for His kids to kill each other with pre-emptive attacks, devising gruesome, sadistic ways to punish His surviving kids, and engaging in the mind-numbing, never-ending job of keeping a scorecard of all of His kids’ sins.

Frankly, none of that sounds quite Godly, to me; but to each, his own. For me, God is Life and Life is eternal. You can annihilate bodies, planets and all physical things. Try to destroy Life. Just try. Long after Earth, Pluto and Mars cease to exist, Life/God will remain.

The next time we send a crew into space, looking for signs of Life on a distant planet, I hope they consider that their physical eyes have physical limitations. As scientists I hope they take into account that organisms are merely one of the many forms that Life takes.

And, in deference to the peace they find when they arrive on those faraway planets, I hope the crew doesn’t slam the door when they leave.

One thought on “Slamming the Door on Summer (and Space) Travel

Comments are closed.