This morning I woke up to news of NASA’s supply mission to the International Space Station having come to a premature and spectacular end in the form of a giant fireball to the tune of 100,000,000 dollars. It is a story like any other I suppose; good intentions marred by budget restrictions, management vulnerable to human error and ego, and an unhappy ending tempered only by the fact that no one was hurt. A lot like your average divorce then.
Still, I don’t write simply for the sake of writing. I am not enslaved to a corporate paycheck, and I have no vested interest in pleasing a particular customer base. I am a literary ronin. I fear no deadlines and answer to no editor. The words before you are unmarred by the censor’s pen. Thus I am permitted by default to speak the truth as others are simply not. Good. Fuck them. Fuck them and their corporate sponsors.
It is a tragedy of our time that kids like Justin Bieber are more popular than humanity’s collective efforts to better ourselves by pushing back the veil across the universe so omnipresent yet so inconceivably distant. The Indian Mars mission cost less than most Hollywood blockbusters, and yet it received little attention in the West beyond a thoroughly collectively surprised: “whoa! India has a space program?” Yeah, also, after this morning it appears to be better than ours.
Meanwhile we lose our minds over the most trivial crap – usually whatever is showing on MTV and FOX “news” or whatever Bill Maher said that makes uncomfortable amounts of sense in a world so pacified by political correctness it has lost the ability to be true to itself. Global warming? Not real. The younger generation? Doomed. Terrorism? ISIS is in our schools, and let’s not forget to enjoy life because Ebola is going to wipe us off the planet.
I advocate – whenever I can – that everyone take a deep breath, count to 10, and stop relishing the flawed nature of their humanity quite so thoroughly.
Men battle each other as mankind battles itself, ill content and restless, ever longing for that which he fails to name. Thus young men die – lives unlived – their potential robbed by the technologies of death at the behest of others who do not themselves see it fit to fight. War is the tragic lowest plain of our morality and understanding whereupon sacrifice abounds and true victories are few. We betray the blackness within ourselves – the false benevolence mankind sees within itself because we wish it to be true – when we honor our victories more fervently than the wisdoms that stayed the coming of war.
So many have suffered and died in vain; the lesson we should have learned long ago beyond our understanding. How many more must join them before we lose all taste for battle? How many more before we wean ourselves off our antagonistic bloodlust for one another.
We are a predatory species, this I do not deny. Nor does the universe at large have any concept of our notion of fairness. Survival is tough – an eternal struggle wherein species and individuals come and go with terrifying brevity of stay. I am reminded that the vast majority – well over 99% – of all species that have ever existed on this planet are gone, extinct, never to return. We are a prideful species; a self-congratulatory bunch easily impressed by our modest accomplishments in the face of an apathetic universe we do not fully understand. It is true we are the dominant species of this planet – the apex predator by virtue of our technology and propensity for rapid (and indiscriminate) propagation. Yet this earth is venerable in ways we fail to imagine and is littered with the fossilized bones of species whose reign was no less dominant and lasted a great while longer than ours has by a margin of several hundred million years. Yet we seem to be the first species that, while not actively cannibalistic, seems most likely to be the architect of its own downfall. Save for the world or the greater universe at large wiping out our species in any of the number of spectacular ways it can and indeed has done to other species in the past, we may yet be the ones who – in our exuberance and impatience – create and utilize the means by which every last one of us will cease to be.
I am humbled by the thought that we are not nearly as special as we presume to be, in our arrogance, and in clear defiance of all the evidence to the contrary. Like so many of the great ironies in life this fact would be funny were it not so tragic. Men build buildings, gleaming and tall, and proclaim themselves masters of the earth. We build airplanes and satellites and believe ourselves to be masters of the skies. We build ships and submarines to circumnavigate the globe and we fancy ourselves lord over the seas. Yet when our technology fails, the fuel runs out, or complacency steers us awry, our buildings fall, our ships sink, and our airplanes are reunited with the earth by the relentless and unforgiving pull of gravity. Without our technology we are amongst the most ill-equipped residents of this planet – a shockingly impractical design – whose global population would crash should we ever be robbed of our long-compounded advantage. We stick tigers and bears in cages and assert our dominance over them with camera phones and regulated feeding times. We are the dominant species, yes, but enter the cage and the playing field is not evened but skewed utterly in favor of the animal over which we, on the other side of the bars scant moments before, claimed utter dominance.
We are an enigmatic species – upright and bald – without horns or claws or fangs, possessed only with intelligence and fervor in this brief geological moment during which we have come to rule over this world. Yet intelligence – ours or that of future generations more cerebral still – may be no more than a precarious evolutionary branch that will not bear long term fruit; doomed, made redundant by nature’s other, more successful stratagems in the struggle for life in which we are yet but infants.