Don Rogers: Life aims for the stars
Critics begrudging the billionaires their flights of fancy don’t get it. They never will.
Never mind that these spoiled brats nosing into space will do more to save the planet than all those too-well-grounded hens clucking.
Steve Jobs had a point about the crazies at the bleeding edges. But nearly all fail, you know. That horde of would-be innovators we don’t celebrate, don’t appreciate, don’t hear about.
It’s the ones who make it through, those last turtlelings scrambling sand to sea, we celebrate, resent, make fetishes of. These are the ones advancing humanity, fulfilling Life’s purpose.
Never mind the banal glitter they live in, positively prosaic against reality, their earthly advantages, conceits, favored status, personal excesses.
Why begrudge them? They achieved, however much dumb luck might have helped. Their wonderfulness as people is beside the point. That’s not what they’re here for, not their gift.
We overflow with normals, after all, whole swaths of neighborhood living rooms aglow in neon blue. Our grand populace so full of shoppers and gossips and protesters and partisans and parents and worker bees, we dull drones.
Life doesn’t need the mass of humanity beyond the ability to kick a can down the road, the purpose you and I mainly serve. We have babies who grow to have babies. We sugar the world to favor our species, the one true pandemic beyond any virus.
We live our everyday dramas, whatever makes us feel useful: our TikToks, our triumphs and our miseries, Life’s distractions. Then somewhere down the line in all this humdrum humanity emerges the occasional someone truly remarkable, another of Jobs’ crazies, an Einstein, a saint.
Consider that even the legendary Jesus will vanish in time. The real messiah may not even have existed or was very different than the myth we worship. Not that little details like that particularly matter. His story is what delivers meaning, nurtures the faith.
Ah, our stories. Now that’s what endure, what matter, what sustain and propel us across the generations, inspiring fresh innovation as one candle flame lighting another.
Consider also that humans today are no more intelligent than we were when Neanderthals shared Europe with homo sapiens. Only our very most clever progeny, our very most creative, our crazies — these are the rare, rare people who cut the path ahead. They set our course, Life’s intent. The rest of us follow along, stupidly as ever.
What does Life really want? I imagine it’s first to survive. Abraham Maslow no doubt got the order right. Survive, then self-actualize, in Life’s case send out those branches and roots, always exploring. Humans look promising. Can they get Life off the planet?
Expanding beyond our little soiled world, this nest, only increases the odds of long-term survival. Humans’ lottery chances for ingenuity give Life its best shot this way.
And what if a form like us — questioning, seeking, inventing — could take shape without needing to eat, to sleep, to breathe, to live a fragile life cycle in all the ways anchored to organic? What if Life could surmount that, with human help? At least at first.
Maybe we play god ourselves to software, to robots, to machines. We inculcate sentience. Is that in essence life, too? Might some assemblage of algorithms get there, crack the code of consciousness?
Or the other way: Life accepts humanity at last as another failed experiment, retreats to the trees, to nature’s regular balance after recovering from us, following the perhaps inevitable crash after our current pandemic-shaped population spike. Virus is only one form of such an infection. So are too many rabbits on an island in the wake of predators disappearing, or us finally outstripping our resources.
We’re far more hare than sage, I’m afraid. The notion we’re going to mind our ways and live within our means seems naive at best and against our nature. Our arc better tracks with Winston Churchill’s exhortation: “When going through hell, keep going.”
This isn’t hell, of course. Humanity today has never been healthier, wealthier, safer, better educated, more informed, more secure or well fed.
But the logs for our own pyre are stacking up, up, and I don’t see much promise in critiquing the dimensions of the pile. So, yeah, a peek at the stars. Is that so crazy?
Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299
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