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The latest in man’s search for cosmic kin is the discovery of seven Earth-size planets orbiting a dwarf star named Trappist-1. Using new technology, astronomers not only confirmed the existence of the new solar system but its potential to support alien life.

At 40 light years, or 235 trillion miles, from Earth, the planets are a stone’s throw in extraterrestrial terms. However, it wasn’t their proximity that captured my imagination, it was their constellation. Aquarius.

I first encountered that name 49 years ago, while a student at the University of Texas. Then, like today, anger was boiling in the streets. The Vietnam war was raging along with racial unrest. Demonstrators were on the march. Things were ugly.

But, just as a dark storm of discontent descended upon us, a ray of sunshine broke through. Out of the cacophony floated a message of harmony and understanding. A group called the Fifth Dimension sang about the dawning of a new mythical age “where peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars.” The Age of Aquarius.

In astronomical terms, the Age of Aquarius is a span of time many astrologers calculate to have begun around 2012 when the March equinox point moved out of the constellation Pisces and into the constellation Aquarius. Also known as the New Age, it has been associated with love, brotherhood, unity and integrity.

For almost a half century, whenever I heard that Fifth Dimension song I felt a twinge of the joy it evoked so many years ago. We knew it wouldn’t change the world. The forces of darkness were too powerful and relentless. It was only a song. But somewhere deep inside it offered a spark of hope. A delicate flower among the thorns.

We’ve made scant progress in human relations since then. Yet that flower of hope survived long enough, in my memory, to see a critical breakthrough in technology revealing Trappist 1’s secrets. What will we do with this gift?

Perhaps today’s Aquarius, with its hint of new life, will be enough to put our earthly struggles into perspective. To remind us of how the potential of the universe dwarfs our petty differences.

New life could mean a new beginning. A New Age where, per the song, sympathy and trust abound. Do we dare dream it or will we remain earthbound foundering in a field of thorns? The choice is ours. The universe awaits.

Let’s allow ourselves, for just a minute, to dream.

Malcolm D. Gibson

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