Steadying the Ship of Hope

In recent months we have entered turbulent times on Planet Earth. Watching the television it all sounds very exciting and for sure it gives the media lots to talk about. The two key events which stands out for attention is the referendum vote in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union at some near-future date. The second is the election of a President in the United States of America, who arrives at that office with much controversy. Speaking to many, there is huge uncertainty about the future and the direction our civilisation will head next. In his 1942 publication 'Darkness and Light" the philosopher Olaf Stapledon described those two possible future as follows:

Is it credible that our world should have two futures? I have seen them. Two entirely distinct futures lie before mankind, one dark, one bright; one the defeat of all man's hopes, the betrayal of all his ideals, the other their hard-won triumph.”

One year from now, the Earth would have gone around its orbit again, for the approximately 4.5 billionth time. The Sun will still rise and set. The ocean tides will continue to ebb and flow. The birds will migrate with the seasons. The universe will continue to grow in its extent. Your cup of coffee will still be ready for you in the morning. Gaining some perspective, is an act of humility before the storm.

How we handle these apparently turbulent times is up to us. How the European countries handle the negotiations on 'Brexit' and how the United States handles the election of its new President, is up to all those people involved. Just because the circumstances are controversial, this does not require that we respond in similar kind, or that we used heated words designed to hurt the character of another person or nation. For when we attack each other, we are also hurting ourselves. And although the majority of us may not be involved in the day to day decision making that surrounds such events, this does not allow ourselves to lower the standard of our conduct. Instead, we have a duty towards our fellow human kind to ameliorate our shared circumstances and be emollient. We are all protagonists in this great play, and we all have a role to perform as citizens of Planet Earth. You will never get another person to listen to your point of view by attempting to drag them kicking and screaming....or threatening them with actions. This doesn't mean we must acquiesce to the untoward which offends us. Instead, leadership by example, is what creates that hopeful space. All nations of the world, its governments and its people, East and West, North and South, should adopt such behaviour.

We can stir up the fires of discontent, division, and despair, or we can create the conditions of encouragement, unity, and hope. Whenever we write words in articles, blogs, facebook, twitter, or speak words in person, in speech or on television and radio, they have the power to belittle or influence other people for right or wrong, and thereby collectively contribute to one or another of those two futures that Stapledon spoke about. Which future do you want to live in? What role will you play during these turbulent times?

Turbulence is typically characterised by unsteady or even stormy conditions, a state of conflict and confusion. If you were on a ship, bound on a journey, and your ship entered very stormy conditions, what would you do? If a person takes action to try and improve the situation, the best way that 'they' know how to, yet makes mistakes, would you chastise them or encourage them to try a different approach, with education, inspiration and good intention in your heart?

Planet Earth is a ship, it is a living starship, at sea in the ocean of space, and we are its crew, all of us. It seems to me that to keep this ship steady in turbulent waters, our best hope is to adopt a state of calmness and serenity, as we seek to find wisdom and humility in ourselves, and to encourage it within those of our fellow species. And yes, it takes courage and patience not to give in to the taunting of the masses, but ultimately this is where true integrity is to be found as we seek to determine verisimilitude in a labyrinth of mass information, global events and political, economic, social-cultural and technological change.






The Starship Travellers

A star is a stellar object in deep space, burning with the embers of a nuclear core, providing fundamental elements for the universe to nourish and create objects, places and people. It starts its existence as a molecular gas cloud collapsing, condensing into a huge gravitational mass, eventually igniting in a giant cauldron of fusion energy, luminescent across the Cosmos.  A star is the creator and destroyer of all things. There are billions of these stars, hundreds of billions in our galaxy alone. Some small, some large, some bright, some dim, some with planets abound, with the star warming the shores of surrounding world’s, others floating in the void of the vacuum destined to serve little purpose than the generation of light for the wonderers of the deep.

A ship is a vessel, which transports people from one location to another. It has some form of device which propels it along the journey, moving along a carefully planned navigational course, avoiding risks and pitfalls along the way. It is merely a device to enable the journey, from here to there. It allows the occupants, people, to extend their biologically evolved senses of sight, hearing, smell and touch, to go beyond the banks of their origin, to experience different places, to measure the heights and the depths of space, to better understand and comprehend the reality upon which we inhabit.

If you bring these two words together, you have a Starship. This allows people from one place in the Cosmos to connect with people from another place. It allows those people to share their common or not so common experience of the world. To share knowledge, stories, science, technology, culture and philosophies. The starship enables a coupling between species that have been separated by space and time for the age of the Universe, and now they are bought together to discover for the first time, the journey of another. This form of ‘mental conception’ or ‘fusion of intelligence’ will most likely lead to something wonderful including to a greater understanding of ourselves.

We have many ideas for what a Starship may look like, but it is too early to really say. Our minds require more time to comprehend the abstract challenges of sending vessels across light years of space, at speeds approaching that of light, for durations that last for years, decades or centuries. Will it be driven by microwave beams or catalysed by antimatter? Will it have giant fusion reactors or mine interstellar hydrogen as a form of interstellar ramjet? Will it cross that sea of Suns using exotic space drives and warp drives, technology and indeed science, yet to be invented? Will it be a huge cylinder or shaped like a large doughnut with engine nacelles coming off the sides? Will it carry people from one nation on Earth, or representatives from all nations, with a mix of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, culture and philosophical outlook? Does any of this matter?

When that Starship finally arrives at its destination will it build artificial colonies or terraform the nearby world’s? Will the inhabitants of that Starship, perhaps several generations ahead of those that set out, wonder about the Earth and want to return to it? Will they even care about Earth? It may be that some will colonise the system, their civilisations will rise and fall as we have done before, but always with the shadow of their origin looming over them – the distant pale blue dot called Earth. Perhaps, a new species will evolve, that seeks to go on a journey of their own, to simply return to the home world from which they originated and to see the deserts of the Sahara, the jungles of the Amazon, the icy mountain of Everest, for themselves.

In some ways, it is not the origin or the destination that matters, it is the journey. It is the act of setting out on a bold new adventure that allows human kind to grow and evolve into whatever it shapes itself to become. This is what results in a change to the human being and all that he believes in and stands for. It is rapid rate of change on an otherwise predictable trajectory. It is a kind of mathematical and physical inflexion point, upon which the future of human civilisation thereafter takes a different course. Change, even when disruptive, especially when disruptive, results in a movement to a different paradigm of though. This is what the Starship represents. Just like the ‘Pale Blue dot’ photo of Earth gave us a different perspective on our world, the Starship journey and the act of trying, will give us a different perspective on ourselves.

Just like in the television series ‘Star Trek’ the Starship is merely a vehicle for the plot line, similarly, in the future the Starship is a vehicle to enable continued human growth and for progress to be made – to discover new things about the Universe and what it means to be human – or even to separate from our biological evolutionary tract by a form of technological divergence. And what sort of people will go on this magnificent journey? Will they have the weaknesses that so betray our species today? Will they inherit our selfish ways, our jealousy, our greed and our war like mentality? Will they exhibit our bitterness and our nature to push one philosophical view point on to the mind of a weaker human being? No, I think those Starship travellers will be a bold, daring, confident and capable people. They would have shed many of our weaknesses and adopted many of our strengths. Starship Human, will be a more evolved entity, physically, mentally and culturally.

We came out of the pools of Africa, from a few cells we evolved into the mammals and then the Homo Sapiens that we are today. Now, we are preparing for our greatest period of personal growth yet, to build a Starship and travel to those distant points of light that have so haunted human kind for many thousands of years. We will be a changed people for the attempt and for the experience, definitely if we succeed, almost certainly so still if we fail. Let’s hope that change contributes to the Universe and its intelligence in a positive way. Let’s hope it helps us to reach our full potential, deserving of the title – We the human race, are the Starship Travellers.