To Infinity and Beyond – The Northern Lights and Associated Wonders.


A few weeks ago we spent a few days in Finnish Lapland. Our hotel was on the bank of a huge frozen lake and in the evening we tramped out towards the centre of it in search of The Northern Lights. There was very little light pollution and the sky was cloudless. We stood in awe in almost total darkness as the lights grew and swirled and illuminated the night sky (photo above). After a while I sat on the ice and eventually I lay back to get a better view. Away from ‘The Lights’ the sky was black, bottomless and impermeable, but alight with a billion billion stars. It was utterly breathtaking and the enormity of it all set my brain spinning. What is visible to the naked eye is the tiniest fraction of what exists out there. If just an infinitesimal portion of the stars that I could see had planets spinning around them, that must still be countless millions. It is somehow impossible to believe that our own tiny little spinning orb could be the only one amongst such millions to support life. And given that, notwithstanding our considerable efforts to decimate it, our little globe is home to many millions of different species, who can begin to even imagine what might be out there.

I’m not naïve enough to believe that I will ever know. Almost certainly it will never be known, and that can only be for the best. If intelligent beings ‘out there’ can get here, they must be massively in advance of us. What could they possibly want of us? Pets? And given that, as a species, we often find it impossible to get on with our own kind simply on the basis of a different skin colour, sexuality or belief, what chance do we have of bonding with a small green ectoplasmic blob with an intellect the size of a thousand Einsteins? As sure as eggs is eggs, as soon as they see the mess we are making of our own planet, they are not going to want to let us anywhere near their own.

But what if they’re already here? We’ve all seen the films: aliens living amongst us – hidden in plain sight. Come on, who hasn’t looked at Donald Trump and not wondered if he could possibly really be of this world? Who amongst us is not watching his flicky little tongue, waiting for him to peel off his human face to reveal the lizard beneath? Even worse would be if aliens were to reveal themselves in the UK now and demand to be taken to our leader. Where the hell would we take them? ‘Erm… Little bit of a rudderless boat at the moment to be honest… er… situation’s a little bit… fluid… currently. Do you drink tea? Oh… no mouth, of course… Tell you what, I’ll phone the local radio station and see if they can suggest something…’

My dad had a theory that we were originally put on Earth by a much more advanced civilisation simply so that they could watch us develop – much as we might observe ants in a formicarium. We are like some real-time Eastenders for them. Such a shame that all we seem able to do is to hasten ourselves along to our final episode…

And then it occurred to me: what if I am an alien? What if we all are, but we just don’t remember? What if we’ve already killed off the true apex species of the planet and are now slowly (slowly?) working through the rest?

Anyway… all of this in a split-second in the middle of a frozen Finnish lake in the early hours of the morning. My mind clicked back to the Aurora. I sat up and drank it in. It was magnificent and the world that it cast an eerie light onto was also breathtakingly beautiful and then I started to feel cold… When I’m cold, my mind begins to wander – generally towards the warm – and the warm was in the hotel, so I followed my mind back to our room and joined it in a glass of whisky and a packet of peanuts.
All in all, not a lot to tell, but I just thought I’d like to share…

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