written by Hans L.D.G. Starlife on June 21, 2005 | contact me
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We Humans are very shortsighted, stuck in our own little time and place. We often fail to see the big picture, just like the ants in an anthill can’t understand what’s going on beyond their little world. We are stuck with a narrow, near-term agenda. If a project doesn’t generate economic, strategic, scientific or technological benefits within a few years, it’s not worthwhile.
And we think we do all these things only to satisfy our own personal or collective needs. But hey – if we try to do what the ants cannot; if we manage to widen our perspectives and look beyond all these short-term "needs" and "wants", we too may find the presence of a much larger agenda - a reality just as real as our own, but hidden in the vastness of space and time...
This is the evolutionary agenda, not of us, but of our cosmos, quietly pushing us forward - whether we are aware of it or not. It’s the inherent and omnipresent "drive" of our cosmos, the drive that is behind all physical, chemical, biological and cultural evolution in our universe, from the first hydrogen atom to the latest Marsbound spacecraft.
This larger agenda is beyond our free will. All the things we like to think we do "just because we want to", we unconsciously also do on behalf of this greater but more subtle agenda. Just like the act of procreation, all the dreams and visions and hard work we undertake, are also the instruments of this natural, inherited and omnipresent drive of our cosmos.
Some people still being stuck with the "ant-view", often object changes and transformation in their societies. Spacefaring and settlements on other worlds are typical examples, sometimes deemed "unnatural" or "against the will of nature". Seeing this wider, evolutionary perspective however, it’s easy to also see that our expansion to new worlds in space is an instrument of natural evolution as well.
- And any attempt to stop it becomes rather unnatural, an action against the "will" - or evolutionary drive - of nature. Moreover – as you "discover" this naturalness, you suddenly also realize that all the space-age clichés you are confronted with through TV, movies, newspapers and even at school and professional conferences, doesn’t really tell you the whole truth. There, it seems all this "space stuff" is about making short-term science, technological advancements, and perhaps enterprising.
But not a word about the larger agenda. Suddenly, you see that behind all these fine words, beyond the needles of our anthills, our journeys to Mars and beyond are not really about this at all. It’s about nature. It’s about beauty. It’s about the joy of being born, of being alive - and of giving life. All the things the universe is in the process of doing.
Once you have opened your eyes to this perspective, the parallels between these two realities – our own little world and the cosmos – become growingly apparent. Just like the spiral whirlpools of water going down our bathtubs, suddenly merges with the images of swirling spiral galaxies beyond…
Perhaps you stray among the flowers on a beautiful summer field, thinking of our galaxy like a meadow with a billion suns, shining like yellow dandelions waiting to spread their seeds... Or perhaps you find yourself sailing across some archipelago of "islands in the Sun", realizing that our solar system is nothing but another archipelago of islands, just like on Earth connected through various forms of natural events.
Likewise, rocks have already traveled from Mars to Earth. Organic molecules and cosmic rays are soaring across the universe as well, all with the potentials to influence the paths of Life. And now we Humans, one of latest "instruments" of evolution, are learning to do the same, further contributing to the natural interaction between the worlds of the cosmos.
And in the process of sailing to and settling these new islands, first in the "archipelago", some day across the galactic oceans, we too are gaining the capability to help life on its way. To do what the birds and the insects have done all along here on Earth – to bring the seeds of life further. Here on Earth, it doesn't take long after the birth of a new volcanic island, until the first seeds of life find their way.
It’s all parts of the same greater agenda. It’s the same evolutionary drive present everywhere. And this drive, like the laws of physics, is very much universal, limited neither by Earthly jurisdictions nor by our planet’s gravity well. IF a life form can spread from one island to another here on Earth, it does. And if life can spread from one "island" to another in space, it surely would too. Life always finds a way.
We Humans often have difficulty adjusting to quick changes. If they take place over generations, it’s easier. But as a matter of fact, there is no magic, evolutionary "stop sign" above our planet - except perhaps in our minds. The unnaturalness some may feel exists only there, in our minds. Evolution itself will always ensure Life tries to enhance and expand wherever it possibly can. It’s nature’s way of doing business.
Earlier, we Humans haven’t questioned our interaction and interference with nature. Here on Earth, we have been influencing our environments by domesticating plants and animals for many thousands of years, moving from field to field, from island to island. We have been engineering our own planet for a long time. And other species have interfered with us as well.
When we now look outwards to the next island on the horizon, that rusty rock we call Mars, should we then do it differently? Even if we found some indigenous life forms there, nature – if it could think and talk - would want us to move ahead. Surely, if another species on Earth suddenly found a way to migrate to Mars, it would without any hesitation.
In fact, if we choose to hinder this evolutionary drive by not migrating to Mars and interact with its environment, it would be as if our ancestors had chosen not to start cultivating the fields, simply because they didn't want to disturb the local plant life there. Is anyone today seriously suggesting we Humans should have remained hunters and nomads, not starting to cultivate our lands for this reason…?
Interaction and interference are given ingredients in most evolution - physical, chemical, biological as well as cultural – here on Earth as well as everywhere else in our dynamic, everchanging universe. Dandelions and supernovas both influence their surroundings with their "seeds", for better or for worse. That’s how it’s supposed to be.
In the end, all these interactions often tend to speed up the evolutionary processes. And not only the evolution of the specific species, compounds or events that are best fit to survive and grow more complex. As a consequence – viewing things from that larger, cosmic agenda – they also favor the evolution of Life in the universe as a phenomenon.
As we now learn to set sail for the Red Planet beaconing in the sky, to visit or to settle, to change ourselves or to change the planet, we should think about this greater agenda, subtle and hidden as it may be. Because what we are doing, in essence, is not only to selfishly spread our own genes, increasing our own knowledge and opportunities. As instruments of the cosmos, we are also contributing to this grand experiment called Life, tirelessly and continuously trying to surpass itself.
- And that makes us the biggest environmentalists of all, more responsible and devoted to promote and broaden the "case for life" than any Earth-centered environmental campaigner ever seen. To promote the future of life on Earth, without also promoting its future beyond Earth, is irresponsible beyond forgiveness. Because in our interacting universe, these objectives go hand in hand.
As a matter of fact, we all live in, and have always lived in, and will always live in, a highly dynamic and ever-changing universe. Mars is not an old isolated museum, and was never intended to be. And nor is our Earth. Everything is changing over time, everything is interconnected, everything is interacting… the World with the Grain of Sand, the Heaven with the Wild Flower, to loosely cite English poet William Blake.
The ability to see this perspective, the fundamental naturalness of our emerging Human expansion to Mars and the uncounted worlds beyond – and the many great joys and rewarding moments that come with it – is what nourishes my interest and support for these adventures. No, sorry guys - I am not into this because of some shallow fascination for roaring spaceships, heroic astronauts and Moon-like landscapes. Perhaps I did as a young boy, but I am grown up now!
Instead, I am doing it out of this deep love for Life; for the richness and growth of Nature and Culture. I love it so much, that I don't just settle for protecting it. I want to share its beauty with other, less fortunate worlds - truly participating in that great cosmic awakening which we all are parts of. And perhaps, contributing to giving the Human civilization a new, unifying "Higher Purpose" as not only the Gardeners of Earth, but of many worlds.
And the more we can see the greatness of this evolutionary saga, in which we all are players, the more we will find that there is still room for the innocence, magic wonders and beautiful fairytales of our childhood - all those things we thougth were long gone. Because our interconnected, interacting and holistic cosmos is truly magic, truly beautiful.
I myself have learned to see this magic and beauty everyday, when I walk in the forests, when I look through a telescope, when I love somebody. The forest is there behind the telescope lens, the stars are there in the forest. Not only in my mind, but quite literally. It’s all parts of the same big whole, the same origin, the same destiny.
As a consequence, when I wander through the meadows a sunny summer day, when I watch the thriving wildflowers and the butterflies dancing by, listening to the whispering sounds of leaves in a gentle breeze, playing with my smiling daughter… I don't just see a local, natural environment. I feel the almost intoxicating, holistic presence of planets, stars, galaxies and cosmic evolution.
In the same way, when I look at pictures of planets, stars and galaxies, or someone is talking about our future potentials in space - I don't think of alien landscapes or roaring spaceships, not even of science and engineering. My apologies to you, my fellow scientists, engineers and space advocates, but my thoughts are somewhere else.
You’ll probably find me thinking of thriving wildflowers and butterflies dancing by, of the whispering sounds of leaves in the gentle breeze, of the smiling faces of playing girls...
On the fields of Mars.