No, I haven't forgotten about Ask Me Anything! August 2011. In fact, I'm going to give some more answers now!
:: A reader e-mails: When you were high school, did you ever play a prank on anyone. Or Streak?
Well, as for the latter...no. God, no. No no a thousand times no. I mean, really -- nobody wants to see that, right?
As for pranks in general, not a whole lot. I attempted here and there, but what was weird is that a lot of times people would prank me, but when I turned around and pranked them, you'd think I had thrown tomato sauce on the Pope's robes or something. Sometimes these same kids who loved to prank me would rat me out to teachers if I pranked them, which got kind of old. It was odd...so in general, my pranking never really went beyond hiding people's stuff when they weren't looking. Lame, I know, but I wasn't all that great at this kind of thing. A dull answer, I know!
Glenn asks: Once upon a time America chose to do great things, such as go to the moon. Today we live in a country that has chosen to give up the ability to send people into space. Do you believe that you will see a human on another celestial body in your lifetime? If so, where will that human come from?
I honestly don't know what I think about the human future anymore. Most times I can get myself optimistic, because we usually end up progressing almost despite ourselves, don't we? Who knows what's going to happen in the future to make life better. At least, that's what I keep telling myself in my darker moments -- which have been coming more frequently of late -- when I become almost convinced that my country's priorities and values are forever dooming us to decline.
I still believe that humanity will go to the planets, and maybe even one day to the stars. Will it be Americans? I increasingly doubt it. I'm suspecting China or India will lead the way, and that the US will be the Portugal of space exploration.
Martine asks: What is the meaning of life?
Wow. Now there's a tough question. Do I give it a smart-alecky answer, or do I try to give a genuine answer? Or maybe some combination of each?
Ultimately, I think that life is inherently meaningless, except for whatever meaning we create for it ourselves, out of our values, our principles, the things we choose to do and the things we choose to leave to be done by others. We create meaning by the things we care about, the pursuits we follow. Meaning is a human creation, a human notion...and I don't think that devalues the notion of life having meaning at all.
The problem with this is, of course, that there is an awful disparity amongst our species, in the varying degrees of power individuals have to bring meaning to their lives. For many, 'meaning' basically boils down to little more than survivalism, and I find that deeply saddening. I am also disturbed that for many in positions of power, their concept of meaning depends heavily on assuming that the lives of many others are, for all intents and purposes, meaningless.
So I think that we create the meaning in our lives, but I also think that we are not all-powerful when it comes to creating the meaning in our lives. If that makes sense. I'm not sure that it does.
OK, more answers to come!