togt

You might want to sit down for this.

Ready?

Here goes: I have concluded that we human beings are alone in the universe.

Sorry. I thought you were ready. The smelling salts are on the table beside you.

As I was saying: I believe that we Earthlings are by our lonesome in the big, wide universe.

A-l-o-n-e.

Out in the cold.

Odd man out.

Up the creek without a paddle.

Blued and tattooed. Get my drift?

Yes, I know what Carl Sagan told us: The famous astronomer and famous author famously declared that “The universe is so vast that the law of averages makes it impossible that Earth could be the only inhabited planet.”

Impossible?

Well, here’s a good question for the late Mr. Sagan (who by the way, also believed in reincarnation, so who knows? Maybe he can give us an answer, after all): where’s the evidence to back up that statement?

Never mind. The facts speak, and speak loudly, for themselves.

Space probe after space probe has sent back the same forlorn report: “There’s nobody out here. And there’s no sign that anybody’s been here.”

No remains of old campfires.

No wagon tracks or hoof prints.

And perhaps most telling of all: no litter.

Wait! It gets worse.

We have searched the extraterrestrial universe high and low, in precincts far and near, but we haven’t found life of any kind anywhere, not even a solitary single-cell amoeba. Not one. No sign of plant life either, though we all have seen that crabgrass and wild blackberry can grow anywhere.

Good thing old Carl is not around anymore to hear this, but where extraterrestrial life is concerned, the point is clear: the law of averages has been repealed.

Imagine that. We Earthlings are exempt from the venerable Law of Averages! Amazing when you consider that statistics has been used to prove so much else that seemed, well, at least improbable: a World Series championship for the Chicago Cubs, a pardon for O.J. Simpson, parallel lines that actually do meet.

But us? No. Where the old L of A is concerned, we are null and void, given the ‘don’t-call-us-we’ll-call-you” treatment. I haven’t felt so left out since I couldn’t get a date for the senior prom. I couldn’t get one for the Junior prom, either, but these are stories for another time.

But any way you slice it, we Earthlings are TOGT: The Only Game in Town.

Look, if it’s any consolation, I was just as surprised as you are to find out that we are IT!

Even after Mariner and all the other space probes came up empty-handed, I thought for sure that the Hubble Telescope would catch somebody, or something, somewhere, sneaking out to fetch the morning newspaper or dashing to a nearby Heaven-Eleven for a last-minute quart of milk or loaf of bread.

But, full disclosure, it’s not as if we, or at least I, didn’t have fair warning. Both my Uncle Zeke and Aunt Nelly maintained that space exploration was a colossal waste of time. They never even believed that we had landed men on the moon.

“It was staged in the desert in Arizona,” Uncle Zeke insisted.

“I think it was a Hollywood sound stage,” said Aunt Nelly. “But same difference.”

Now I admit that my uncle and aunt held extreme views on everything, not just space exploration. Forget intelligent life on other planets, Uncle Zeke and Aunt Nelly didn’t believe there was intelligent life outside the South.

But I think it was my friend Crybaby Martin who came up with the best explanation. (His name is actually C.B. Martin, C.B. for Charles Bryan, but, well, like our current lachrymose Speaker of the U.S. House John Boehner, he cries easily, over nothing, thus the nickname Crybaby, though Crybaby is from South Carolina, not Ohio.)

Crybaby, it seems, stumbled onto the truth after reading that the famous Carl Sagan was not only an astronomer, author, astrophysicist, and director of the Laboratory of Planetary Studies at Cornell University; he was also an exobiologist.

Having never run across the word “exobiologist,“ Crybaby looked it up. It means the study of extraterrestrial life.

“Well,” said Crybaby, laughing for once instead of weeping, “if there ain’t no extraterrestrial life, then Professor Sagan was a professor of a field of study that doesn’t even exist.”

A logical conclusion by Crybaby Martin is itself against the Law of Averages, but, by golly, I think he hit the nail on the head.

There. Feeling better now?

Well, give it time. It’s been my experience that these things take time.

###
Robert Lamb

Robert Lamb

I grew up in Augusta, Ga., where I attended Boys' Catholic High. After service in the Navy, I attended the University of Georgia, majoring in English, and then began a (wholly unexpected) journalism career on the old Augusta Herald, an evening paper, and ended years later in Atlanta at The (great) Atlanta Constitution, which I left in late 1982 to write The Great American Novel. That goal has proved remarkably elusive, but my first attempt (Striking Out, in 1991) was nominated for the PEN/Hemingway Award. My second novel, Atlanta Blues, spent a few minutes on the best-seller list in (at least) Columbia, S.C., and was described in one newspaper’s year-end roundup as “one of the three best novels of 2004 by a Southern writer.” My third novel won no honors but at least didn’t get me hanged; titled A Majority of One, it is about a clash between religion and the Constitution over book-banning in the high school of a Georgia town. For my next novel, And Tell Tchaikovsky the News, I returned to an Atlanta setting for a story about the redemptive powers of, in this case anyhow, “that good rock ’n’ roll.” I've also published a collection of short stories and poems: Six of One, Half Dozen of Another. One of its stories, “R.I.P.,” was a winner in the S.C. Fiction Project in 2009. Before retirement, I taught creative writing and American literature at the University of South Carolina and its Honors College, and feature writing in its School of Journalism. I maintain a now-and-then blog at boblamb.wordpress.comand I walk my dog on the beach a lot at Pawleys Island, S.C.