Over the Hill

How the Supermoon puts post-election worries in perspective

Monday’s supermoon rises over an oak tree near Creston Road outside of Paso Robles.
Monday’s supermoon rises over an oak tree near Creston Road outside of Paso Robles. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

I sat in my backyard Sunday night and Monday night gazing up at the “supermoon.” I sat there about 15 minutes each night in a white, plastic patio chair.

After the neighbors’ dogs quit barking, it was quiet. I felt more relaxed than I was ever able to feel during the recent presidential election battle.

It reminded me that our Earth and moon are parts of something much bigger and older than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and I. Our Earth and its moon will still be here long, long after Trump and Clinton and I are gone and forgotten.

As you know, the full moon looked especially big and bright Monday because the Earth and moon came as close together as they ever do. The last time that happened with such a bright, full moon was in 1948. Trump and Clinton were toddlers then. That puts things in a little better perspective.

And here’s more perspective. I was looking at the moon from my backyard on Earth. Experts tell us the Earth and the moon are about 4.5 billion years old. The experts say a stray planet collided with Earth back in those truly early days. The debris from that collision eventually congealed as the moon.

Looking at our current “supermoon” this week helped me to see things in their proper perspective. The Earth that got clobbered back then is the same Earth we live on today. But compared with that ancient planetary collision, our recent election is like an autumn leaf wafting down from a tree.

But, of course, there were no humans on Earth when that stray planet collided with it. The experts say we humans probably didn’t evolve into our present species until about 200,000 years ago in eastern Africa.

Scientists call our species “Homo sapiens.” That means wise or intelligent mammal. Those scientists might have picked another label if they’d lived through our latest election or during any of our frequent wars. We humans aren’t wise enough to get along with each other — or generous enough, either.

Once in a very great while, a human does come along who tries to teach us to get along with each other and even to help each other. I’m thinking of people like Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. But what do we other humans do? We kill them. (I’m sure there were a few other great souls that I didn’t mention. I apologize.)

A story in Tuesday’s Tribune said this year will likely be the Earth’s hottest year on record. Last year was the hottest so far. And the human population has grown from 2 billion in the year I was born, 1930, to more than 7.3 billion today.

So while sitting in my white, plastic patio chair and gazing at the big, white moon, I couldn’t help wondering if our human race also will become extinct someday like the dinosaurs. Those big, powerful creatures that once dominated Earth are all gone. We need to be smarter and more generous.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 805-238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.