I Never Imagined Being Here

If you’re going to tell people the truth, be funny or they’ll kill you

~ Billy Wilder


I never imagined, at any possible level, I’d wind up here. From the cosmos to my daily, mundane existence, my life is a testament to the absurdity of improbability.

As I’ve written and spoken many times, the existence of each of us is highly unlikely to the extreme. Our knowledge of the universe and DNA illustrates the long odds against any one of us appearing on this cosmic stage. And yet, in the face of these seemingly impossible odds, here we are. Not merely here, mind you. But here with brains big enough to contemplate how and why, along with powers of observation sufficient to invoke the notion of the miraculous.

Yesterday I was kindly cleaning out a cabin on behalf of one of the many people who’ve recently betrayed me. A friend who was helping brought up an anecdote from October, 1982 as a reminder of a stunningly improbable personal event. He said, “I’ll bet you never thought you’d be doing this when you took that flier off the bulletin board.”

He was referring to the notification of a Graduate Research Assistantship on one of the bulletin boards in the forestry building at the University of Idaho. I removed it from the board, took it to my undergraduate adviser, and asked Professor Leon F. Neuenschwander if he thought I was fit for graduate school. Dr. Neuenschwander tossed the flier onto his desk, asked a few questions, and then called his former graduate adviser on the telephone. A short conversation later I was committed to pursuing my M.S. and Ph.D. at Texas Tech University with renowned fire ecologist Professor Henry A. Wright. I started my academic career three months after removing the flier from the bulletin board.

From that simple beginning to the simple but arduous task of emptying a cabin, with abundant accolades along the academic way, here I am. Blessed — or cursed — with the eyes to see where I am and a brain to wonder why, I landed in the “third” world as a result of (1) a privileged, tortuous path littered with myriad seemingly incidental turns in the proverbial road, and (2) a meteor striking Earth a couple hundred miles north of here in Belize. We all came into being as a direct result of that same interstellar object igniting the oil fields that dimmed the planet sufficiently to cause the extinction of the dinosaurs and the consequent proliferation of mammals.

Along the way, and consistent with my written prediction as I graduated from high school in 1978, I became known for McPherson’s paradox and McPherson’s rule. The prediction, which I recently rediscovered: “I will discover a mathematical rule known as McPherson’s rule.”

McPherson’s paradox, coined by an online supporter: Civilization is a heat engine, and turning off civilization heats the planet even faster. This paradox is rooted in knowledge of civilization as a heat engine, based on the Laws of Thermodynamics, as well as on the evidence underlying global dimming (i.e., the aerosol masking effect).

McPherson’s rule, named by yours truly as a joke: Murphy was an optimist. This rule acknowledges Murphy’s Law, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. I employ gallows humor to conclude the worst-case scenario is actually optimistic compared to our individual and collective near futures.

It’s been quite a run. Through all the character defamation, libel, slander, and attempted assassination tossed my way, I’ve remained steadfast in my principles and also in my dark sense of humor. I’m nearly done. Ever attempting to remain detached from the outcome, I’m nonetheless satisfied with the choices I’ve made.

It’s been quite a run. Through all the challenges thrown in the path of humanity, some among us remain capable of decency. We’re nearly done. For better and worse, from honor to horrors, we have left our mark on the third rock from a cosmically insignificant star.

The robber took her personal possessions. The cabin is clean. It’s time to let go, yet again. It’s time to move on, yet again.