May 07, 2018

Is There Life on Mars?

If there is life, then I believe we should do nothing to disturb that life.
Mars then, belongs to the Martians, even if they are microbes.  
—Carl Sagan (1934-1996), Astronomer, Astrophysicist

My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain
just like the land, air and sea. We may even have a Space Force.
—President Trump, Marine Corps Air Station-Miramar, San Diego, March 2018

In summer 2020 the Mars Exploration Mission will land another rover vehicle on the Red Planet in order to examine surface geology and to investigate a region of Mars where an ancient environment may have been favorable for microbial life. Will we find out at long last if there really is “life on Mars?”

What’s wrong with this picture?

• 1.7 trillion dollars a year are spent on the world’s militaries.
• Three billion people live on less than 2 dollars a day.
• Twenty-two thousand children a day die from conditions due to poverty.
                                                             (Statistics: UNICEF and

Since the first Mars Exploration Mission in 1964 the United States has spent 2.5 billion dollars on the venture and will spend an additional 2.4 billion by 2020.
                                                                     (Source: Office of Inspector General—2017 audit of NASA’s Mars 2020 project)

Are these missions to outer space for national security, economic benefit, scientific study, or to satisfy human curiosity by exploring the unknown—existential questions for beings on a small planet in the universe?

Is There Life on Mars?
Who owns the Earth?
Jeff Key—Vessel #43—Boundaries,  Wood, 42” x 42” x 12” 
Is it whoever is bigger and stronger?

Who owns the sky?
Is it whoever is smarter or more cunning?

Who owns the planets?
Is it whoever is there first?

The Mars Rover has landed.
Three hundred million miles from Earth—The product of the finest minds of the modern age— 
a new frontier christened with the burden of expectation.

Should we build a mall on Mars?
Only if it is assured that they will spend.

Should we strip the crust to the core?
Only if analysts guarantee the yield.

Should we displace the indigenous life?
Only if they’re squatting on the spoils.

Greed and destruction have landed.  Scars formed by years of indifference— 
a new millennium to be shaped by the hand of illusion.

April 09, 2018


Stasis—The state of equilibrium or inactivity caused by opposing equal forces. 

Who controls time as the pendulum swings—those who want the arc to move forward or those who want to pull it back.

"Stasis is itself criminal for those with the means to move, and the means to weave communion between people."— Dave Eggers, You Shall Know Our Velocity, 2009

"They shouldn't be offering prayers and words because those mean nothing. We need action.”
       —Lyliah Skinner, Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida, shooting survivor 
in a message to lawmakers, February 2018

March 13, 2018

Water Clock

When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.  —Benjamin Franklin
 The question that dominates my waking hours now is—
When Day Zero arrives, how do we make water accessible and prevent anarchy?

            —Helen Zille, Premier, South Africa’s Western Cape Province, 
now in the midst of the worst drought in a century.

Is the water crisis in Capetown a harbinger of what’s coming next to the planet? 

Capetown, a city roughly the size of Los Angeles, has been threatening to have a “Day Zero,” when the city shuts off the municipal tap and begins to ration water to homes and businesses. The third year of a drought, insufficient dam capacity, lack of water conservation, and political mismanagement have contributed to bring Capetown to the brink of disaster.

Similar warnings accompanied by rationing have hit Mexico City, Melbourne, Australia, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jakarta, Indonesia, the Marathwada region of India, and the state of California.

Climate change, population growth, and overdevelopment have forced cities in drought regions to consider how to collect, protect and if necessary ration water—The fate of the planet hangs in the balance as we try to figure out the answers about water—a precious commodity facing depletion in the 21st century.

Vessel # 56 Release
Water Clock
Breaking barriers, forming rivulets,
                                     shaping rocks, eroding structures,
                                                         rearranging the Earth, dancing with abandon.

                                                                                             Rushing with urgency,
                                                                             obstinate dripping,
                                    spinning, merging— constantly shifting.

Sustenance receding, peril rising,
                                      a migratory witness, a vigilant player,
                                                                         marking time in instants and eons.

February 12, 2018

Diaspora—The Shifting Winds

“Language, identity, place, home: these are all of a piece - 
just different elements of belonging and not belonging.”   —Jhumpa Lahiri

“Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space. Invite one to stay.”  —Maya Angelou
The shifting winds of February flow like the diaspora that is roiling throughout the world.

From the mean streets in Syria, Yemen, Honduras, and El Salvador to Sub-Saharan African and the plains of Afghanistan families have been uprooted. War, threats of violence, political and religious persecution, climate change, lack of livelihood resources, and natural disasters have forced people to leave their homeland in search of a better life.

Like genetic anomalies finding homes within human cells, displaced refugees move with uncertainty. Food, clothing, shelter, and language barriers all become obstacles in a quest for sanctuary.

Diaspora by Jeff Key

A gust of wind, a coursing bloodstream—conduits of a continual diaspora, scattering organisms of every size and shape on a random journey down the path of natural selection.
Instructions tucked into the nucleus of a body's cells, written in the language of the DNA molecule, forcing a wrong turn on the on the genetic road map—
zika, ebola, malaria, cancer.

Spores set forth by a mother fungus cast their fate to the prevailing breeze—from the jungles of the Congo to a new colony in the mountains of Peru.  

A new location somewhere on chromosome seven—eaten by a spider, deposited on a desert rock—a torn blanket in the shadow of a barbed wire fence—a tenement basement with an unfamiliar tongue. 

The dispossessed, wrested from the sleep of night, thrust on an unwelcome expedition to an unknown destination—roots torn, origins dissolving, destiny declared.

January 15, 2018

Beacon—On Laws, Treaties and Trust

Good people don’t need laws to tell them to act responsibly….and bad people will find a way around the laws. —Plato

You can't trust water: Even a straight stick turns crooked in it.—W. C. Fields

Like New Year’s resolutions—laws, treaties, and commitments are constantly being broken as the year moves forward and history is being written.

A promise is a fleeting proposition—presented with conviction and trust but bent like a river breaking into tributaries of hypocrisy, deceit, and betrayal.

How do people govern in the early 21st Century—with their hearts, their minds or their pocket books?  A nod of the head, a handshake, or the stroke of a pen determines the fate of individuals caught in the vortex of a power vacuum.

Congress  votes on bills that will enrich their bank accounts; a president decides to turn his back on 194 nations trying to save the planet from apocalyptic climate change; 700,000 young people brought to the United States by their undocumented immigrant parents live in fear that they will be deported.

Friends, neighbors, and families—tribes, congregants, and countries peer over the fence to read the face on the other side. Is it a friendly smile, or is it a mask that can change with the wind—sunny today—cloudy with rain likely tomorrow?

December 21, 2017

What Gets You Up in the Morning?

"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "What's the first thing you say to yourself?"
"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?" 
"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. "It's the same thing," he said.                                             
                                                                                                              —A.A. Milne from Winnie the Pooh

Finding ourselves in the midst of the holiday season and on the brink of a new year, it’s a good time to pause, take stock of what went well in 2017, what gave us comfort, what went wrong, what kept us up at night …..and what we can do to improve life for everyone in 2018.

What Gets You Up in the Morning?
Porridge in the morning, steam on a cup of tea, a reverence for light, the mystery of fire, biking to work, rolling in the snow, watching flowers grow, finding that illusive answer.

In Danish it’s Hygge, Lagom in Swedish, Gemütlichkeit in German, Fargin in Yiddish, Jugaad in Hindi, Ikigai in Japanese, Mbuki-Mvuki in Bantu, and Xìngfú in Chinese.

It’s the stillness inside that transcends words—learning to recognize joy and beauty, feeling love and hope, expressing morality and compassion, pulling a soft blanket over your shoulders to harness warmth and tame the darkness of winter.

Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle found it in eudaimonia, thought giving way to the spirit—arriving at virtue. Camus searched for meaning and purpose, marveling at the will of Sisyphus as he keeps pushing his rock.

It guides us through the seasons, overcomes nostalgia and melancholy, tunes in the sound of wind whistling through trees, gathers the luster of moonlight on water, and recalls memories as we find ourselves opening the door to take on a new day.

                                                                                                                       —Jeff Key, 2016

December 05, 2017


"The light, acquiring luminous momentum, is caught in a brazen act of seduction
and scurries below the surface, attempting to avoid its own brilliance."
                                                                     —excerpt from STEPS by Jeff Key

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.
                                                                                             —Winston Churchill

Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away.
                                                                                        —Elvis Presley

Truth is an elusive commodity.  Source, attitude, and perception color facts and populate print and speech with disparate realities. 

Steps comments on how these traits affect truth, influence thought, gather momentum, and descend into enigma.

How can 40% of Americans reject evolution and 50% reject the evidence that climate change is mostly due to human activity?  (Pew Research Center survey)

How could the Supreme Court in its decision of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission declare that corporations have the same rights as people and grant  corporations and labor unions the ability to spend unlimited funds for the election or defeat of a candidate?

How could Congress pass a major tax bill without hearings or a more thorough analysis of its economic impact in light of the report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that the bill would increase the national deficit by more than $1 trillion over the first 10 years.

As Kurt Andersen points out in his new book, Fantasyland—How America went Haywire,  “People tend to regard the Trump moment—this post-truth, alternative fact moment—as some inexplicable and crazy new American phenomenon. In fact what’s happening is just the ultimate extrapolation and expression of attitude and instincts that have made America exceptional for its entire history.”

Click on "read more" to see the text for STEPS