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Observations: Having hope

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image Will giving this cat named Cora a home make a difference in the world? Perhaps not in the larger picture but it does in my insignificant little corner. Photo Mitch Traphagen

While we argue over minutia, the world’s next Albert Einstein may be starving to death in Somalia. Or South Dakota.

By MITCH TRAPHAGEN

The LED lights on the cameras blink on a full-time quest. Several times a day and through the night, a camera catches something, a moth, perhaps, or just the changing of shadows from the sun moving overhead. Each time, it sends me an email with an image from our front door. I look through them but I’m losing faith that the emails will contain what I’m looking for. It has been almost four months and my little buddy, a cat named Emma, has not returned. 

The camera did pick up a cat once — a cat that had stripes like Emma. But that cat also had white paws, something Emma does not. Over the past months, readers have contacted me with tips — I once staked out a neighborhood in Sun City Center for three days hoping a tip would pan out. Someone asked my wife and me to look at a cat they rescued on her last day at Hillsborough Animal Services. It wasn’t Emma but the cat needed a home and she found one with us. Cora Kitty now spends her nights cuddled up by my feet, and occasionally attacking them in the wee hours.

Michelle made daily trips to Animal Services to check on cats that had been picked up. Not all that long ago, she dropped down to three times a week. I’m hesitant to ask her if she is still going at all. 

There are more than seven billion people on this planet, which is basically nothing more than an organic spacecraft we all must share that is hurtling across the universe at roughly a million miles per hour. From somewhere far out there, our Sun is just another nondescript star, one of at least 300 million stars in our galaxy alone. We see our technology and think of ourselves as advanced yet humans have never left Earth’s orbit, and it has been 40 years since we last landed on the Moon. Today, we don’t even have the capability to do that. Worse, according to the World Health Organization, one third of the people on this planet are starving, and more than 20,000 of our fellow humans will starve to death today alone. 

In the vastness of the universe, we are nothing more than the atoms that make up a grain of sand. And that includes all of us: dictators, kings, presidents, paupers, and the Koch Brothers. From on high, we are equally insignificant, regardless of our station in life. From the standpoint of history, the short blips of our lifespans are also insignificant.  For a brief time, we share this one small, four billion-year-old rock in a lonely and quiet solar system but we haven’t yet mastered how to do it peacefully.

You’d think I would have more to worry about than a missing cat.

Of course I do. It is astounding that in 2013 people are still starving. There is political corruption, a troubled economy, and bad guys with little regard for anyone’s life but their own. There is a whole host of things to worry about.

I can give money to organizations dedicated to feeding starving children but I can’t see the results, I don’t know if that cash is simply lining someone’s pocket rather than filling a stomach. I can loudly proclaim my support for our troops yet I go on with my day with purposeful lack of awareness as the bodies are buried. In many ways, in my equal insignificance, I am also equally responsible for the global problems. I have made mistakes in my life and I can ask God to forgive me for them each and every day but nothing will change until I forgive myself. 

The only control I have, if any, is what I do with my own little insignificant corner of this insignificant world during my short and insignificant lifespan. 

I can be sincerely grateful to those in our military who put their lives on the line for this nation. I can be grateful to the deputies, firefighters and paramedics who do the same for our neighborhoods. I can be grateful to those who teach our children and to those who care for those in need. I can be decent and helpful to my neighbors and I can love my family and friends, and do all of that with the responsibility it entails. I can give a cat a home and I can shed tears for a cat that I am only now accepting may not come home.

Will any of that change the world? Not really, but it can’t hurt. Once I get over myself and my own insignificant problems and selfishness, I can also take chances, roll the dice, and try to make a difference because I’ll know that the worst thing that could happen would be that I would live to regret something. Which, of course, given the short time we have on this planet, would actually be something of a blessing. 

I can ask so many questions about the meaning of life but the only real question with meaning is this: is my existence going to assist in human progress, even in the smallest way, or am I going to detract from it? While we argue over minutia, the world’s next Albert Einstein may be starving to death in Somalia. Or South Dakota.

Close your eyes and think about the future — decades and millions of miles away from where we are now. Do you see war and starvation? I don’t. I see flying cars, futuristic cities, limitless energy, and our descendants who are better than us at figuring out problems. I see hope for humanity. I simply can’t believe we were put here to just screw things up; I believe that we are here to make things better — atom by atom, step by step, life by life. I have hope in abundance. 

Which, on a much smaller scale, is why the LED lights on the Emma-Cams are still blinking. I have hope.

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