The Planets, Intelligent Life, and Nail Polish

I am what you might call a nerd. And a dork; which may explain my rather continuous single status. It also explains why when I have an evening to myself I watch reruns of NOVA and paint the solar system on my fingernails. One such evening, of reinterpreting Hubble images went like this: I had already decided to give Jupiter two nails to fully account for its size, but Saturn is my favorite planet granting it the best finger, my left hand thumb. It is not only the largest nail, but also the easiest to paint. I did it first. It was only after, nearly an hour later, when all the nails were working their way to dry, that I realized my error.

Now if I hadn’t mentioned it, probably nobody would have noticed that I painted the solar system in the wrong order. Saturn comes after Jupiter, but my thumb comes before my index and middle fingers.  What can I say, though? I am only human…

Several months ago, and every time someone complains about us, I am reminded how much I absolutely love my species. When I made my solar system mix-up, I started thinking about how much of that adoration is due to our errors. Isn’t it our flaws and quirks that make us interesting? Since then, as if by fate, every day somewhere I hear that someone is “only human.”

Only human? Hello, are we not the dominating species on this planet? Sure, being the winners doesn’t make us the best. I studied history, after all, so I am well acquainted with that concept. But shouldn’t being human be a positive thing? I mean, humans have a lot going for them; least of which, thumbs.

So I’m back to Saturn and a new revelation. Maybe being “only human” is less about our abilities; less about what we can do; less about the size of our brains or the mobility of our fingers; and, possibly, less about our capacity for language. Maybe “only human” refers to our emotional tendencies.

I’m not a scientist or a pet psychic, so I don’t know what emotions animals do or don’t have, but I am comfortable saying that the only feelings my dog Dot Com acts on are those regarding his stomach. We, on the other hand, have all sorts of feelings and triggers competing for our attention. We are alone as a species that discovers the facts and then reacts in a way that dismisses that logic to make decisions based on something that must be in the brain, but feels like it is coming from the heart, and doesn’t always make sense. It is just our species’ curiosity and loneliness that causes us to bother with the planets at all. We are the ones that do things out of order from excitement. And it is humans, and only humans, who feel the need to talk about it later. See what I did there?

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