Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Thoughts on space travel

I remember reading an article about deep space travel and human crews losing interest in contacting Earth after just one generation. The language would change to fit their everyday observations. If they were traveling through the emptiness of space, words like mountain would disappear and they'd have to make up new words to describe things they saw that they didn't learn about.

If there was a way to communicate with Earth, it would be used by the first generation of space travelers. They would have the mission to explore and colonize or whatever else they set out to do. But as they had kids and moved on in their giant space colony ships, interest in maintaining the mission for some faraway civilization they will never see again would wane. I'm sure this would spawn some kind of weird religious thing. There would be factions that wanted to maintain contact and factions that would not want to communicate. There would be factions that didn't care one way or another.

But as time passes, all of that would become more obscure. The original mission would be a Genesis story; familiar enough to remember but unimportant enough to dismiss upon hearing. The floating colony, generations removed from launching out of Earth's pull, would be completely apart from Earth. Earth would forget them, too.

It reminds me of the different philosophies of Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun series. The "rebel" faction remembers space travel and escaping Earth while it is utterly unimportant to the vast majority of the world. It reminds me of today. We look at history as a series of big moments and while we live through the big moments we can't even recognize as such. The right wing can dismiss the BLM protests because history paints the civil rights movement as massive. It's fixed in time. It's in the past. It's in the history books. We can't see the enormity of our moment right now because we are in it. Soon, it will be fixed in time too.

The times we are living in are important and massive and it is important to think about where we stand. We no longer have the luxury of knowing exactly how we'd act in great moments in the past. You can say you would stand against tyranny, you can say you would fight racism and oppression if only you had lived through that moment. You can say you would support Martin Luther King, JR and the protesters marching peacefully. It's easy to imagine yourself on the right side of everything. Be what you imagine yourself as in the past now. Be on the right side of the present.

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