Are We Alone? Does It Even Matter?

“Unlike in my hometown in Gunma, the nights in Tokyo were bright, making the stars in the sky sparse. I had looked up at those stars as a child and dreamed of going there someday.

“But I now knew that was an impossible dream. With the developments in space travel all but stalled in real life, I couldn’t believe that the age in which civilians could take a casual trip to space would come before I died of decrepitude. Traveling to another planetary system at speeds surpassing the speed of light was physically impossible, and the probability of an interplanetary visitor attempting first contact virtually nil. The human race would likely continue to be bound by Earth’s gravity, only to die in obscurity without having learned of the existence of multitudes of intelligent species.”

–Hiroshi Yamamoto, The Stories of Ibis

I suppose for most the fantasy of traveling from planet to planet is motivated by the spirit of adventure, discovery, and the belief in the ongoing evolution of the human species and the irrepressible progress of technology. For me, space travel isn’t about any of that. It’s about the dream of getting as faraway from humanity and ordinary life as possible.  I don’t fantasize about returning to Earth as a hero, but rather of immersing myself in the infinity of space, leaving the weight of society and the doldrums of modern life behind, just a tiny point in the starry distance. However, please don’t misunderstand me. What I’m describing isn’t an elaborate death wish. On the contrary, it’s a desire for re-birth, one that can only be achieved by wrenching myself free from the pull of Earth’s gravity, and to not only soar beyond the clouds but beyond the solar system and into the unknown, where one’s name and personal history are erased. Where such a trajectory ultimately leads, I have no idea. Discovering, let alone conquering, new worlds isn’t part of the fantasy. Only the journey itself.

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