Answer, Man?


Dear Ace: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? Can you hear me now? Good?—Gauguin-my-eyes-out-over-questions-without-answers-in-Charlottesville

Ace, for one, was found on a dark and stormy night on the doorstep of Albemarle County residents Mr. and Mrs. Atkins, tucked in a wicker basket with a letter that read, “Answer me.” And it hasn’t been easy, but Ace is trying. With the help of modern science, Ace has been able to determine that his true ancestry is two parts Maltese, one part Baskervillian. Once, he even received a purloined letter from a distant blood relative in London, listing 221B Baker St. as the return address. Sadly, Ace’s attempts to correspond with the mysterious sender went unanswered.

So mote it be for us all, friend. In our hearts and in our minds, we call out to our starry cradle of origin, yet receive nary a sign that the audient void hears our voices. According to the best available measurements, we are one of the latest results of a continuing cosmic maelstrom that got started sometime between 13.3 and 13.9 billion years ago, at which point the Universe expanded from an extremely dense, incredibly hot singularity of matter and energy into the immeasurably vast, darkly celestial sea in which we presently find ourselves struggling to stay afloat. There’s enough poetry in that accounting of things to sustain Ace, but if you’re inclined to approach the mystery of creation in terms of an archetypal workweek, or as a stack of turtles in infinite regress, then he won’t try to persuade you otherwise. Just remember, dear reader, that the territory includes the map but they are not the same thing. All peregrines are falcons but not all falcons are peregrines; indeed, some falcons are Maltese.

As to where we’re going, well, Ace hasn’t any idea. The earth revolves around its home star, which is nestled in an outer band of the Milky Way Galaxy, which cuts its own ineffable trajectory across time and space. So humanity’s transit broadly resembles a corkscrew, coil or helix: at once cyclical and progressive, a sine wave of light, sound and fury twisting ever onward into the unknown. 

But you are here, and Ace is here too, and if you can hear him now, then he can hear you. Ace supposes that’s good enough.

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 21 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to