The worst of times, the best

05/25/2011 12:25 pm ET

The Beethoven piano sonatas, pianist Louis Kentner once said, should be presented to the first Martian visitor to our planet as proof of what human civilization is capable of. Here, friend, we should say to the little green men. This is the best of us.

And I wondered what else we could give these little green women to show off. They will have been watching us for a while, cautiously, will have seen us destroying the environment of our world, seen us going to war, seen us hating, torturing, neglecting, damaging our fellow human beings. Seen us blindly following imaginary gods while rejecting the work of our best and brightest scientists.

So this better be good (and portable, can't give them Chartres cathedral, or a Rolls Royce, or Paleolithic cave art, or Hidcote Garden):

A Beethoven Sonata
A Puccini opera
A Shakespeare play
A Jane Austin novel
A Charles Dickens novel
The Magna Carta
The American Declaration of Independence
The Australian electoral commission rules
The Gettysburg address
Newton's Principia
Darwin's Origin of Species
Einstein's General relativity
A Rembrandt painting
A Van Gogh painting
A Stradivarius violin
A Faberge egg
A Tiffany Lampshade
A 'Peace' rose
A Cocker Spaniel
A Sebright bantam
A Bach concerto
An illuminated manuscript
A Macintosh computer
A poem by Keats
A song by the Beatles
Venus de Milo
Michelangelo's David
Rodin's Burghers
Silent Spring
Walden Pond
Pepys Diary
Ann Frank's Diary
A Mozart Symphony
A Michael Leunig cartoon
A Molly Ivins column
A Christopher Cooper column
A Phillip Adams column
A Meissen porcelain figure
A Bolshoi Swan Lake

There, that's my lot. What do you think would make the Little Green Men (and Women) want to have dinner with us rather than exterminating us? We talk every day about what is the worst of us. What is the best of us?

Modesty prevents me including the Watermelon Blog in the list. But green on the outside red on the inside would certainly make those green persons feel right at home. Just saying.