In this week’s assembly, Joe Walker challenges listeners to look at themselves and the wider exploits of humanity from a different perspective… prompted by the arrival of aliens

He asks listeners to consider the world humans have made and the part each of us plays in maintaining or challenging it. It refers to the recent release of information by the Ministry of Defence about reports of UFO sightings across the UK

(News items and ITN news cast)

The actual UFO files are available to download at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/news/434.htm

Resources: Five readers and a leader

Engagement

Mum (Reader 1) and Dad (Reader 2) are sitting at breakfast when along come their two teenage children (Readers 3 and 4). Mum’s trying to hurry the children along but they seem to be in no particular rush. A radio should be playing in background.

Mum (Reader 1): Come on you lot (looks pointedly at watch) you’re cutting it fine this morning – nothing new there then I suppose. Got your PE kit this time have you?

Child (Reader 3): Don’t need it today mum – anyway I expect the school will be closed today.

Mum (Reader 1): Not again – another training day for teachers is it? How much more training do they need? It’s not on the calendar.

Child (Reader 4): No mum, the school will probably be closed on account of the arrival of the aliens.

Mum (Reader 1): Of course, silly old me… Now stop talking rubbish and get your corn flakes down you…

Reader 5: [Radio music abruptly stops and is replaced by the sombre voice of an announcer] We interrupt this programme to remind you that an alien craft has landed in central Birmingham. The authorities have responded to this and are on the scene now. All appropriate precautions have been taken by the government and there is presently no need for alarm. Please listen to this station for further announcements and await instructions from the authorities.

Mum (Reader 1): Dad! Dad! Did you hear that!! The aliens have arrived! They’re in Birmingham! We have to hide!

Dad (Reader 2): Yes, I heard that on the news earlier… but we don’t need to hide, we’re in [insert name of local area]. I think I might just go back to bed.

Mum (Reader 1): Bed! Bed! Have you completely lost it?! Didn’t you hear – the aliens have arrived. We’re not alone in the universe! Perhaps they’re going to destroy our planet! Or feed us to their pets, or vaporise us instantly!! We have to do something!

Child (Reader 3): Oh calm down mum and have another slice of toast. If the aliens are going to do any of that stuff then there’s not much we can do about it is there?

Child (Reader 4): Yeah mum. The aliens are here at last – so you might as well have butter on your toast as well today…. seeing as how the planet is probably about to be utterly annihilated in a micro second [laughs maniacally].

Dad (Reader 2): Oh stop that you, for goodness sake. If they’d been going to destroy the planet they’d just have gone and done it wouldn’t they? They wouldn’t be hovering over central Birmingham waiting to have a chummy chat with the Prime Minister

Mum (Reader 1): But… the aliens… they’re here… everything’s changed!

Dad (Reader 2): What’s changed exactly? Are they going to pay off our mortgage? Give us a nice house on some planet where the sun always shines? Persuade these two of the value of learning? I doubt it. No, things will go on just as they always have – humans will just do what they do – life won’t be all that different I expect.

Child (Reader 3): I wonder if they’ll be all slimy and green?

Child (Reader 4): Maybe they have football teams – maybe there’s an intergalactic champion’s league.

Child (Reader 3): Maybe they don’t play football ‘cos they’re just blobs of gas.

Dad (Reader 2): Right, enough now. No point in wondering what they’re like yet – we should be more concerned about what they might think of us.

Mum (Reader 1): Why?

Dad (Reader 2): Well, let’s face it − we humans are the dominant species on this whole planet and we’re not exactly doing a very good job of looking after it, are we? We can’t even agree amongst ourselves about the tiniest of things – we’re always at war, or arguing, or wasting energy, behaving badly towards each other or trying to avoid PE by ‘forgetting’ our kit. Our world’s a mess, and it’s all our fault. Perhaps the aliens have come to clean things up a bit, and perhaps they’ll start by getting rid of the biggest pests… the human race.

Mum (Reader 1): But there are good things about humanity too – surely they’ll see that.

Child (Reader 3): Yeah, with their millions of googly eyes in their hairy insect-like heads.

Dad (Reader 2): [To Reader 3] Enough. [To Reader 1] Let’s hope they can see the best of humanity and accept that we need some help to put our mess right – because we’re too late to sweep it all under the carpet now. They’ll see the world as it is… the way we have made it…and let’s hope they like what they see.

Reflection

Leader: Just last week the Ministry of Defence released information about UFO sightings across the UK. It would seem that such sightings are very common. UFOs have been spotted over Chelsea FC’s football ground, over the home of a politician, and some have even been said to have been shaped like the chocolate bar Toblerone! Some more were spotted at sea and even coming into land at some of the UK’s biggest airports.

There was a fair amount of media interest in the release of these files – which some have been calling Britain’s version of the X-Files. Of course, people who believe that the world’s governments have covered up the existence of aliens simply say that the important files have not been released under the cover of national security. Will we ever know if the truth is out there? Who can say?

Humans have spent a lot of time and energy thinking about whether there is life out there in the universe, and looking for evidence that they have visited us. We wonder what they look like, how they communicate – what their worlds are like. But perhaps all of that’s not as important as what the aliens might think of us. Perhaps in thinking about life ‘out there’ we forget to pay enough attention to life ‘in here’.

We live in a world of shocking inequality and unfairness. We live in a world where there’s always some kind of war or conflict going on; always some injustice being inflicted upon the vulnerable. We’re probably changing our climate, and our treatment of the non-human world isn’t much more worthy of praise than our treatment of our fellow human beings.

And it’s not just the governments and powerful people in the world who are to blame. It’s all of us. Each time we are thoughtless or unkind; each time we act towards others in ways which are wrong; each time we hurt others by our words our actions or even our unkind thoughts; we create one kind of world instead of another. The world is the way we have made it. I wonder what the aliens would make of it. I wonder what they would think of us. I wonder what they might think of you.

What do you think?

Response

Reader 2: Perhaps these aliens have psychic powers. Maybe they could see right into our individual minds – our souls. Perhaps they can see all the things we try to keep to ourselves – all the bad things we’ve ever done or thought.

Reader 1: I don’t think I’d like that at all.

Reader 3: But that’s hardly fair. Nobody’s perfect.

Reader 4: Yeah, the aliens couldn’t expect us to be a bunch of angels − never doing anything wrong, always helping other people, always caring for our world and everyone in it. They couldn’t expect us to be kind and generous, friendly and loving… it’s just not realistic, is it?

Reader 1: I hope the aliens see it that way…

Leader: What would aliens make of our world? Would they be saddened by it? Angered by it? Disturbed? What would they think about what the human race had done with the planet we have, and about the way we treat our fellow beings?

What have you done to make the world the way it is today? What have you caused to happen by your actions… or allowed to happen by your inaction?

Perhaps we should spend less time looking up to the skies in search of UFOs and alien life-forms, and more time looking more carefully at our world and the life-forms we already share it with. Who knows what might happen if we don’t…

Leader: Let us care for our worldLet us care for each otherLet our common humanity bring us together in friendship and loveLet us forget our differences and build each other upNot knock each other downLet us make our world a better placeAnd let it begin here (pause)Now (pause)

With me

[Amen]

This e-bulletin issue was first published in February 2010

About the author: Joe Walker is Head of RE & Psychology at Liberton High School in Edinburgh. As well as being a well-known author he was winner of Secondary Teacher of the Year at the Scottish Education awards 2005.

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