Yesterday morning, as my sister-in-law and I were heading into Hot Springs for pre-dawn breakfast, I gazed up at the sky through the open moon roof. My head back and eyes trained on the clear sky above, midway between warm and cool, the sheer number of stars shocked me. It had been quite a while since I stared upward at the darkness of a crystal clear night sky. Yet time disappeared as I looked skyward. That remarkable view brought back to me a feeling of wonder and awe, the same sense of amazement I have felt so many times before. There were too many stars to count as I stared in reverence and contemplated the meaning of distance. I doubt I am alone in confronting the impossibility of comparing the distance between Hot Springs and Havana, Cuba (roughly 1000 miles) to the distance between stars. Proxima Centauri, the star closest to Earth (aside from the sun) is 4.246 light years from Earth. I tried to convert the distance measure of 1000 miles to light years; the resulting number: 1.70108e-10. Just like the visual effect of staring the blanket of uncountable stars above, the intellectual effect of trying to comprehend the distance between Hot Springs and Havana, Cuba was mind-boggling. This morning, I stepped outside into the ink-black darkness and looked skyward; no stars. Cloud cover hid the thousands of stars I saw yesterday. The fact that one cannot depend on experiencing the awe of a clear night sky every night makes it imperative to go out and look as often as possible. We do not want to miss the chance of seeing a jewel-strewn sky. Good fortune comes to those who seek it out with fervor.
The population of Earth today is roughly 7.753 billion. The United Nations says the population of the planet one hundred years ago, in 1922, was between 1.86 billion and 2 billion. Assuming exactly the same rate of growth as between 1922 and 2022, the population one hundred years hence will be in the neighborhood of 22.3015 million. Gandhi once said “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” Various groups of scientists have produced estimates of the planet’s “carrying capacity,” the maximum population size an environment can sustain indefinitely. Those estimates, according to an undated Australian Academy of Science paper, range from ≤2 billion (obviously wrong, given Earth’s current population) to ≤1024 billion. The majority of studies (20 studies) though, suggest ≤8 billion (20 estimates) or ≤16 billion (14 estimates). The lower of those two figures is a little terrifying, given how close we are to 8 billion right now. Many (perhaps most) demographers acknowledge that the planet can sustain a number greater than today’s population, but they also seem to be concerned that the tipping point, though unknown, is near. I continue to be a proponent of the thinking of Thomas Malthus. While Malthus may have gotten the timeline and the numbers wrong, I think his logic is far stronger than today’s proponents of allowing population to grow exponentially. Malthus suggested that, if unchecked, people breed “geometrically” (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, etc.). But he said the production of food can only increase “arithmetically” (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.). Again, he may have been “off” with his numbers, but his theoretical underpinnings were correct, I think. The idea that the supply of Earth’s resources will somehow magically expand to meet the demands of overpopulation is absurd. Utter nonsense. Mind-numbingly stupid. Okay. I may be slightly judgmental on this subject. So be it.
We had lunch yesterday at the Pasta Grill in Russellville. The place is a moderately upscale Italian restaurant. Worth a visit. As is Leonard’s Ace Hardware in Russellville. Leonard’s is a truly “old-style” hardware store, a big, cavern-like building stuffed to the rafters with damn near anything one could expect to find in a hardware store. I could wander its aisles for days. I could empty my bank accounts and those of a hundred wealthy Villagers, if I released the hold I’ve placed on my urge to buy; were I to permit myself to do it, I could spend millions of dollars, just in pocket knives and power tools. Before we left yesterday, we had picked up a set of four telescoping metal marshmallow forks (because everyone needs telescoping metal marshmallow forks). I also bought a few peg-board hooks, obscenely overpriced…to the extent that the cost of the hooks with which to hang tools is approaching the cost of the tools themselves.
The drive to Russellville was unplanned. We just got in the car and went. We wandered up Highway 7 until we got to Highway 314, which took us to Highway 27, which led us through Rover and Danville and Ranger and Chickalah and Dardanelle. Nice drive. Very little traffic. Just relaxing. A calming getaway.
Today, we will go to church. Afterward, we will go to lunch with some folks from church. And, then, we will come home and I will mull over what tasks I should tackle and in what order. And I will think about tomorrow’s CT scan and my visit with my oncologist. I look forward to the time when she will say to me, “You’re cancer-free.” That statement requires five consecutive years in which there is no evidence of cancer’s return. That’s a year and a month from now. I just hope my good fortune continues, so I can hear those words and feel a bit of weight fall from my shoulders. Although if I got word that cancer had returned, I would not be panic-stricken or otherwise devastated; it would just be a setback I would have to address. Either I would overcome it or it would overcome me. A simple, if deeply concerning idea.
Enough for now. I now need to shave, shower, and dress suitably for church. I believe flip-flops, shorts, and a ragged t-shirt should be adequate, but I live among people who are not quite as savage as I.