Operator, can you help me,
Help me if you please,
Give me the right area code,
And the number that I need. – Operator by the Grateful Dead.
My buddy Advanced Being dropped in the other day, as he has been known to do.
A.B., as I call him, never knocks. He doesn’t even enter the room the way you or I would. He simply materializes, and I’ll look up from watching a basketball game on TV or reading a book, and there will be an Orangutan or Gryphon or maybe some figure from popular culture or history such as Ben Franklin or Genghis Khan or Wink Martindale sitting across the room.
As an Advanced Being, A.B. can assume any form he wishes. And what I love best about my buddy is his sense of humor.
On this latest visit, he showed up as Ron McKernan, A.K.A. Pigpen, the original front man of the Grateful Dead who blew his liver out on rot-gut wine. A.B. even had his harmonica with him, and I talked him into doing a spot-on rendition of “Turn on Your Lovelight.’’
If I could tell you where A.B. was from, I certainly would. I’ve asked a couple of times, whether he was from some other galaxy or plane or dimension, and his answer is always the same.
Don’t worry about it. You wouldn’t understand.
So I don’t.
As for why he chooses to visit me, of all people in whatever galaxy, plane or dimension he traverses, he’s equally succinct. He feels more comfortable in homes that appear “lived in,’’ and I’m prepared to say no place around looks more “lived in’’ than ours.
Plus, he likes Bud Light, and knows I always have a cold 12-pack or two in the refrigerator.
Being an Advanced Being, he could easily be hypercritical of all he sees from humans on the planet earth. But, thankfully, he’s beyond the need for derision or rapprochement. Instead, he’s just curious about our species and why we solve, or attempt to solve, our own particular set of challenges and problems the way we do.
On this latest visit, after he put away his harmonica and popped open another Bud Light, he started quizzing me about how we power our society and way of life.
A.B.: So humans, by now, do know that water can be a source of energy, right?
C.D.C.: Yeah, I think the Greeks figured that out sometime around 300 B.C.
A.B.: And you know that energy can be produced by wind, right?
C.D.C.: Indeed. The Chinese were hip to that by around 200 B.C.
A.B.: And you know that by harnessing the power of the sun, you can have all the energy any society would ever need.
C.B.: We’ve been a bit late to that one, but by the late 19th century, a scientist named William Grylis Adams discovered that exposing the mineral selenium to light can produce electricity. We needed another 75 years or so, but by the mid-20th century we’d gotten around to solar cells driven by silicon. Solar power is still a nascent industry today, but it has its champions and it’s picking up some steam – so to speak.
A.B.: So if you know your energy needs can be met with water, wind and sun, why are you still powering your automobiles and lighting your homes with coal and oil? Can’t you recognize the environmental problems caused by fossil fuels?
C.B.: If you’re talking global warming, some of us believe in what the scientists are telling us about that, and some of us don’t.
A.B.: Some of you don’t? Those people have to be living in remote third-world nations, right?
C.D.C.: Well, actually no. One is currently residing in the White House.
A.B.: If you know energy and electricity can be produced without resorting to coal or oil, why are you still so reliant on coal and oil?
C.D.C.: I would say it’s complicated, but it’s really not. The most powerful people in our society are those with the most money. And the ones with the most money derive much of that wealth from the coal and oil industries.
A.B.: What about the elected representatives responsible for the good of all of society, and not just the richest and most powerful?
C.D.C.: You can find them in the back pockets of the richest and most powerful.
A.B.: Don’t the richest and most powerful have to live in the same society that they’re doing grave harm to with their assault on the planet?
C.D.C: Personally I never see any of them, except on television. They live in these special enclaves, called “Gated Communities.’’
A.B.: And they’re allowed to live there in peace, without everyone else calling them out for who they are?
C.D.C.: Some do call them out. But the loudest voices in our society, the media, are also controlled by the richest and most powerful.
A.B.: Like your elected representatives?
A.B.: Well it’s your planet, as long as it lasts. You guys kill me.
C.D.C.: Unfortunately A.B., we’re doing a good enough job of that ourselves. Need another Bud Light? And how about pulling out your harp and laying a little “Operator’’ on me.