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Happy 111th Birthday of “The Devil s Tower” being a US National Monument.

September 24, 2016


I’ve never seen it in the flesh (and it looks more like flesh than rock).  In my mind’s eye of course it’s made of mashed potato – its grooves painstakingly applied by Richard Dreyfuss in front of his bewildered family.

The Lakota prefer the names Matȟó Thípila or Ptehé Ǧí, and have their own tales of how this igneous rock that towers 800 feet above the plain was created.   The most prevalent story involves girls who were chased by bears praying to the gods not to be eaten and the gods promptly elevating the rock they were praying from to a convenient and safe height.   The grooves on the side are the scratch marks of bears.   I’m not a geologist and I have to say this account seems quite plausible to me.

Eccentric US President and pioneering conservationist Teddy Roosevelt made The Devils Tower (as those of European descent have chosen to call it), the very first national monument on this day in 1906.

Anyone who first became of this remarkable natural phenomenon for the first time in 1977 can only think of aliens arriving right behind it.  When you look at the state of the world right now, perhaps we really do need friendly aliens, people who can look at us all as one common species and make us think of ourselves as members of the same species.

Of course, if they’re unfriendly, then we haven’t got a prayer.  I’ve never been able to watch heroic fantasies in the Independence Day tradition because I can’t believe any kind of defense we could offer could possibly demonstrate the slightest efficacy for a single moment.  Look what 16th century Spain did to 16th century Mexico and Peru – armed with a very short list of key military technologies.  Then take that technology gap and compare it with the technology gap separating twenty-first century humans – and a civilisation that has routinised faster than light space travel (bearing in mind that the finest minds in theoretical physics have problems with the most remote speculative possibility of faster than light space travel.)  No, if aliens arrive here with hostile intent, we are exterminated or enslaved within a nanosecond.

But if they were friendly… if we could play that tune back and forth to each other and if they gave us a light show that lit up Devils Tower?   I think if the aliens were to converge on this landmark today, to celebrate its 111th birthday of being Something Official And Important, then we’d be looking for exactly the right look of affinity and estrangement from them.  We’d want them to look sufficiently different from us that we turned and looked at one another and saw that we really all have the same eyes, the same drives, the same fears and the same aching inexhaustible love for our children.

But we wouldn’t want them to look so different from us that they look as though they’re about to turn the whole planet into a slave-driven salt mine.


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