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Being Happy with When I Am

I've often longed to be able to travel through time. There are so many things I want to know, so many things I want to see. I mean, can you imagine seeing a real live Tyrannosaurus? How about a pterodactyl? But sometimes, I just look around me at the world, and we've got plenty to marvel at now.

I mean, sure, I may never see an allosaurus attacking a brontosaurus (yes, I know, apatosaurs is the proper scientific name, but it'll always be a brontosaurus to me), but I can still watch a group of 7 ton predators attacking 100 ton prey (actually, blue whales can get up to 180 tons, but I'm not sure if orcas will still go after one that big). And I can see various flying animals that spend months, or even years, in the air without ever coming down to land. And how about an animal with a proboscis so well developed that it has around 40,000 individual muscles, sensitive enough to pluck a single blade of grass, but strong enough to rip apart trees.

My longing to visit the past isn't just about natural wonders - there are plenty of human accomplishments I'd like to see, too, like the Hanging Gardens, or to be alive during the golden age of aviation, and to think how exciting it must have been to see that revolutionary technology developing in front of my eyes. But you know what, we have some pretty damned good engineering marvels in the modern world, like the Sydney Opera House, or the Chunnel, or even just about any major sports stadium. I mean, not that I'm a big Dallas fan, but take a look at the new Cowboys Stadium. And you want to talk about living through the emergence of a radical technology - just look at computers and the Internet. When I was a kid, I was shocked to learn that my grandmother grew up without electricity. My grand kids will be just as shocked to learn that I can remember my family's first computer, and that it was years after that before we got Internet (and by modem!). When you look at it that way, these are exciting times we're living in.

And as much as I'd like to travel into the past to learn things, I'd just as much like to go to the future, to learn the answers to the questions I know won't be answered in my lifetime, like if there's any other life out there, and what it might be like. But we know a lot right now. I've read Darwin's Origin of Species, and I'm currently reading The Voyage of the Beagle. And one of the things I think is so fascinating, is to see the questions people had then, the things they would have wanted to travel to the future to learn, and to know that I'm living in the age when they've been answered. Like genetics - Darwin and Mendel knew that there had to be something that passed on traits from organisms to their offspring, but they had no idea what it was. You can tell by reading Origin that Darwin was really groping around in the dark on this. But we've discovered DNA. We know what it is, and the basics of how it works. And every day, we're learning more and more about it. And plate tectonics! That's another one that jumped out at me reading the Voyage of the Beagle. Darwin discussed how he found fossilized sea creatures on land, and how it indicated how the land must have been moving, but he had couldn't have known how it all happened. Now we do.

One of the biggest reasons I'd like to be in the future is space travel. I would absolutely love to be in zero gravity, to see the Earth from that far away, to travel to other planets, but I know it's something that realistically won't happen in my lifetime. But, just 150 years ago, people thought the same thing about flying. I know flying has become so commonplace today, that most people aren't too excited by it, and some people fly so often they even get downright annoyed. But just think about how amazing it is. For thousands of years, probably at least tens of thousands of years, and maybe even hundreds of thousands of thousands of years if earlier hominids were creative enough, we have looked to the skies and dreamt of flying like the birds, to have the freedom to go wherever we wanted. It's been in legends, myths, da Vinci's notebooks, but we'd never been able to accomplish it until just about 100 years ago. And now, I can go to the airport, rent a plane, and for a few hours live out the dreams of all of those ancestors, soar like a bird, and look down at the Earth from above the clouds.

So while I'll keep on wondering about all those things from the past that have been forever lost to time, and dreaming about the future and all the possibilities, I can't help but be awestruck by the world around me in the present, and be happy to be when I am.


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