P luto's no longer a full-fledged, bona fide planet. The world of science has stripped Pluto of status, demoted it to "dwarf planet" and, according to my friend Jean Barlow, ruined one of the best mnemonic devices grammar-school teachers ever devised:

My very eager mother just served us nine pizzas.

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and, hold the pizza. No more Pluto!

Now when school kids have to construct the solar system out of Styrofoam and pipe cleaners, they'll have one less little orb to balance and color. Pluto will be a distant memory and a Disney dog, that's all.

While we're doing housecleaning, perhaps we should work with other genres, clearing out the insignificant underbrush. If Pluto's never really been a planet, then maybe the MG wasn't really a car and Connecticut isn't a satisfactory state.

Size isn't everything.

Pluto was the one planet every kid could remember. The name "Pluto" was funny-sounding, though not corruptible for scatological humor like Uranus. Now there's a planet to demote.

In Roman mythology, Pluto was god of the underworld. The mass formerly known as the planet Pluto was far away from the sun and in perpetual darkness, so scientists decided Pluto was a logical, even poetic, name. The Dark Planet, worthy of the underworld.

I've been watching "The Sopranos" series recently -- just as quickly as the red Netflix envelopes arrive -- and I can't help but fantasize that Pluto the former planet might seek revenge. Revenge of Pluto. Perhaps it will spin out of its groove and hurtle toward Earth.

I think most of us baby boomers feel threatened by this sudden (sudden to those of us, not scientists) change in the planetary lineup. If Pluto is stripped from the list, does that mean Cupid might not be one of Santa's reindeer? Or maybe Dasher is getting a little long in the tooth -- can't keep up with Prancer and Rudolph.

I've taken a long look at myself and have come to this conclusion: I hate all change. Scientific, semantic, doesn't matter. Change bothers me to no end.

I don't like going back to my old alma mater, the Auburn campus, and seeing all the "improvements." People take great pains to point them out to me. I detest them.

I miss the old fast-food Jack's hamburgers where a big conference center and hotel now sits. I spent some happy hours in that Jack's.

I don't like all the stores mushrooming at the edge of town. I don't like the fact that the Heart of Auburn isn't the only motel game in town anymore. It's all I can do to find my way to the stadium.

Growth and progress, unfortunately, have become synonyms. The more megachains and box stores a place has, the more progressive it's perceived to be.


Change should come slowly, if at all. At least the learned scientists who stripped Pluto of its planetary status debated long and hard. They had a basis for the decision, boneheaded as it was. They had rules to go by and the change wasn't frivolous, just disturbing.

Town planners could take a page from the Pluto decision, in fact. Maybe progress -- scientific and otherwise -- has more to do with culling than adding. Maybe lopping off a distant and dark celestial body every now and then could be an inspiration to us all.

Limit growth. Don't annex that next shopping mall; Pluto it.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson writes for King Features Syndicate.

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