From a blue sky, rocket science

by
02 November 2006

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SOMEWHERE out there are some professionals on an away day, being encouraged by their enabler to dream dreams or, as she puts it, to engage in "blue-sky thinking".
 
But you're not there. You're with a friend in a supermarket. He's wondering why people can't stack things properly. "I mean, it's not exactly rocket science," he says. On getting home, you turn on the radio, where the sports reporter is wondering whether the team can come back from two goals down. "It's a big ask," he says.
 
The end of the world is clearly nigh as the enabler, your friend, and the sports commentator work "24-7" to kill communication. A phrase is coined, and then re-coined into tedious oblivion, leaving our language littered with the tired formulations of lazy minds. We would like to think for ourselves, to allow fresh wonders to grace our consciousness, but we have only borrowed speak with which to work.
 
Oh, to converse with a Martian!
 
And as a first step, thanks to the NASA space probe, we will soon receive new pictures of Mars. We already have about 100,000 snapshots, but, although curiosity killed the cat, it tends to save humans; so I'm looking forward to more.
 
There are probably no Martians there at present. It's a cold planet, with an average surface temperature of minus 63 degrees - chilly even for an English spring. The radio presenter this week assumed that  Mars, being red, must be very hot, but the studio boffin explained to her that the red hue was merely rust from its iron core.
 
Could there once have been Martians? The dry river beds, valleys, and flood plains intrigue people, suggesting flowing water three or four billion years ago, when Mars was a warmer, wetter world - and perhaps one fit for the development of life. In 1997, NASA scientists even claimed that a meteorite from Mars held chemical traces of ancient life - maybe even microscopic fossils.
 
Space exploration. Fascinating. But it's not exactly rocket science - and may in fact be something of an emotional half-holiday compared with the more demanding Lenten exploration into the fetid and fine crevices of our serious selves.
 
The golden rule in this exploration is to ignore any phrase - religious or otherwise - with which we are familiar. Your familiar way lost its power to create new energy some time ago; its airless and grandiose pretensions now merely stifle life. Rather, seek language all dewy and fresh, and pay attention to your body.
 
But such blue-sky thinking, 24-7 - it's a big ask.

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