In which Darwin, Hawking and their friends consider quarantine and modern science

Place: Central Park, New York City

Time: May 2020

Dramatis Personae:

Aristotle: Greek Scientist/Philosopher

Charles Darwin: English Scientist/Naturalist

Stephen Hawking: English Scientist/Astronomer

Copernicus: Polish Scientist/Star-Gazer

Albert Einstein: American Scientist/Amateur Fiddler

Aristotle: ‘I went to the Bronx Zoo today. And it was closed!! Imagine, me, the inventor of the first zoo 2,500 years ago. And some damned little….oh, some stupid atom shuts it down forever. I pity those poor stranded dolphins. What’s the porpoise of it all?” (Aristotle chuckles at his own joke.)

Einstein: “Shut up, Ari. You’re talking atoms?? Hey, I’m the atom-guy. And we almost finished the world when they split my atoms. Now I’m thinking, ‘Why didn’t we finish the job instead of letting the world writhe in pain for eighty years of cold wars, nuclear wars, hot wars, …?’”

Darwin: (with patrician coldness of a country squire): ”My dear Albert, eight decades is nothing. We have been evolving for…oh, tens of thousands of years. And…..

Einstein: “And, Charlie?”

Darwin: (Sighing) “It’s Sir Charles, if you don’t mind…”

Aristotle: “Hey, I’m glad you brought up ‘Mind’ Plato and I were just talking about….

Darwin: “Shut up, Ari. Anyhow, in the words of Dr. Fauci, we reached the apex, the acme, the Olympian Heights (forgive the Greek metaphor, Aristotle). And none of it is more serious than a Polish joke (forgive the Slavic image, Copernicus) from here.”

Copernicus: “From the standpoint of the universe, I would say it’s devolution of civilization, yes, Charles?”

Aristotle: “Taking the words from Ulysses, ‘It isn’t civilization, it’s syphilization’.”

Hawking: “That was another Ulysses, Ari. And another Millennium, and hardly a phrase in which to re-Joyce.”

Darwin: And hardly a Victorian phase either. As if we are progressing toward a higher space, a more enlightened time.

Einstein: “Frankly, this whole time-space thing doesn’t make sense according to my own theory. In fact (forgive my Jew de mots), it’s all relative.”

Copernicus: “Your theory, Al, doesn’t hold much water.”

Einstein: “Explain please, Mister Wise-Goy.”

(Copernicus leads the group out of Central Park. Going through a wormhole, they arrive at the Empire State Building, which is closed to the living. They, however soar to the top, and look at the whole city.)

Copernicus: “See what I mean? Zilch. Naught. Nada. More organisms in the heavens above than down here. Though I wouldn’t tell that to my Inquisitors. Two weeks is nothing. The Vatican kept me in quarantine for my whole life. Fortunately, those days are long past.”

Darwin: “Ha! Excuse my outburst. But the Age of Faith has come straight back like a virus spike. The rulers of the self-proclaimed ‘Greatest Empire In The History of the Universe’ have only a passing interest in science. And mainly for public relations. No, they believe in Faith. Magic. The virus will disappear with a Miracle. With Prayer. With applause for the caregivers every seven o’clock pm.

Aristotle: “You mean they’re giving the clap to those heroic doctors and nurses?”

Hawking: “A very stupid play on words, Ari. Sir Charles is making an important point. What he means is that the living scientists, the epidemiologists, the doctors and molecule experts are working in a basement. They are in the lower depths with their test tubes and syringes, and little pieces of paper on which they jot numbers as incomprehensive (to the Great Powers) as the letters in the Kabbalah. The Great Powers on the top are the Shouters, the Schemers, the Holier-than-thou self-proclaimed wizards who prescribe unguents and ointments made of feathers and sunlight and hope and bleach.”

Copernicus: “Well said, Sir Charles. As for you, my dear Mr. Einstein, I believe that we can prove from the top of this building, that your Relativity Theory has one letter in error.”

Einstein: “I don’t believe you. If they can’t make a vaccine for a simple virus, how can you prove my theory wrong?

Copernicus: “Look around you. On the streets. In the lanes. In the very center of New York. What do you see? A few delivery-gentlemen. A dog-walker or two. Nothing else. Think of your Theory of Relativity as: ‘E(verything) = Empty Squares.”

(Einstein is silent, a tear rolls from his eyes, lands on his mustache, and–defying Newton’s law of gravity, the tear bounces on the hairs, turns upside-down, the tears generate more tears, and Einstein tries to push them off. Finally he speaks.

Einstein: “I had been hoping…I never was praying because prayer is superstition. But I had hoping that by explaining time, Humanity might make good use of their duration.”

Copernicus: “I had been expecting that when the Human Race knew we were but a tiny stone going mindlessly around the sun, we would achieve a humility.”

Darwin: “I had been intending that proofs we ourselves came ultimately from molecules and germs and even mutations of viruses, we might find modesty, that we could attempt not to destroy world.

Aristotle: “I had aimed to show that by exhibiting my animals and plants and observing that their grown was intrinsic, internal, that we could be caregivers to our organisms, not slaves of our divinities.”

Copernicus: “Well said, Ari. I suppose we’ve said all we can say, and it’s time to return to our heaven.”

Einstein : “Which means going back to earth. Our Talmud said that we wise people don’t live in heaven, heaven lives in us.”

(Four of the five raise suddenly-appearing olive branches and tumblers of Cretan wine sponsored by Aristotle. Only Stephen Hawking is silent. He wants to speak, but the effort is difficult. Aristotle whispers to the others that Hawking has a vocal affliction.)

Hawking: “Not true, gentlemen. I was simply wondering how to sum things up. We of science have all constructed in our way individual ways mathematical and empirical models to describe the universe. But two questions remain.”

(The others put down their olive branches and wine. And wait.)

Hawking: First, why should there be a universe for the model to describe? Second, why does the universe go to all the bother of existing at all?”

(The quintet are silent, shrug their shoulders, gesture farewell depart to the five corners of our Universal Mind.)

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