Monday, October 7, 2013

Alternate Realities

Like the comedian Steven Wright, when I die, I'm leaving my body to science fiction.  I feel it's the least I can do after all science fiction has done for me. While I couldn't get enough Harry Potter, I also enjoyed classical science fiction and fantasy: Asimov, Clarke, Tolkien, Herbert, Dick and so many others as a child.  It's not that I have anything against reality; I just like to visit alternate worlds in my free time. Only now, as an adult, have I realized the lessons I learned along the way: be loyal to your friends; never lose sight of your goals (no matter how rough it gets); accept cultural diversity; be open to possibilities; and don't assume that if someone spits in your hand, it's an insult. That may be a respectful greeting on a desert planet.         

As a native Floridian, I have yet to encounter any desert-dwellers from this or any other planet, but I know I'll be ready. Being in a culturally diverse family myself, I enjoy the cultural mix of my hometown and am at ease speaking with anyone. The ultimate test to my people skills came when I went to India to visit my husband's relatives, many of whom I'd never met before. It was the strangest place I'd ever been and I credit my science fiction background for my quick assimilation. From the food, to the languages, to the throngs of strangely-garbed people, to the monkeys and elephants in the road, India opened my eyes like no National Geographic special ever could. But I found that, whether you are on the planet Dune, in the Shire, or in India, people everywhere want the same things: respect, security, and the ability to provide for their families. And most are quite welcoming to strangers.        

There also came a time when I wished I lived some place with low gravity. The day I threw out my back bending over and couldn't get off the floor, I would've paid anything to be weightless and pain-free.

Recently, I found myself in another reality when I volunteered at a low-income elementary school just a few miles away. Whereas my children had a life of comfort and ease, never missing a meal or a dental appointment, these kids lacked the basics: decent clothing, adequate food, and health care. They wanted the same things every kid does, but somehow found themselves living in this alternate reality. I vowed to do what I could to help.  
And so, as much as I'd enjoy it, I'm afraid traveling to another dimension will have to wait, because there are people who need me right here.

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