Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

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Is there life on Mars?

I love that David Bowie song, "Life on Mars". It recounts the many sadnesses and paradoxical facts of our odd, consumerist popular culture, and then intersperses in the refrain the key question, appropos of nothing, "is there life on Mars?".

But my own theory is that learning about outer space is our own personal tower of Babel to the Heavens, and perhaps this time the Creator will allow the tower to stand (although learning some cool new languages, as the folks did in the Babel myth, might be cool).

I feel a shiver of ecstasy whenever they have figured out that yet another gas giant is "out there". Yes! This is what I signed up for! This is how I spent my childhood--reading novels to prepare for this. In my old age, we may have "seen" or "heard" the first habitable planet. In your great great grandchildren's era, we might have been in contact with someone who lives on one.

It's a 60s sci fi childhood, materialist, limited-imagination fantasy. But my own fantasy is that we someday realize we must create a place with less war, less resources inequity, less discord, and less environmental waste. We must create this world because we all have better things to do. Six millenia have failed to convince humanity that religion or social order in and of itself a reason to stop slaughtering and starving one another.
The only divinity of which we really learn is the divinity of learning itself. Perhaps we must turn our focus again to the Heavens, but not necessarily to the search for God which prompted the tower of Babel to be built in the story. Perhaps we must search the Heavens for all that we must learn there--we must learn to look beyond God to find the things God has created, in God's name.

As I write this, the notion dissolves into fantasy, the telescope as some magic potion to stop a world in which bombs are dropped on apartment buildings filled with children in pursuit of a single terrorist, in which people barely older than children are induced by men to blow themselves up in buses filled with elderly non-combatants. In my fantasy, when the telegram comes to the UN of impending genocide in Rwanda, people put a stop to it, because we have to learn all we can about the universe.

I don't believe that my fantasy will come true. But I desperately long to live long enough to see the stars open. I watch the news, lately, and I wonder, "is there life on Mars?".
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