MISSION LOG: VOYAGER ONE
APPENDIX FOUR: PERSONAL RECOLLECTION.
Note from author: this retrospection may not be entirely perfect due to high emotions.
As we zipped past the system a pale blue dot caught our interest, hanging in the light from the local star. We had a brief discussion on the course adjustment, and soon our small craft touched the ground of the uncharted planet. All four of us walked down the landing ramp arm-in-arm as brothers and sisters do.
It was no better down here than it had been on approach. Giant walls created imaginary boundaries across a geography that should have been shared. Giant, not great. No wall should be called great.
We unlinked our arms to split up, searching the rubble to find vaults and information. As we parted ways I felt loneliness – despite the communication devices that linked us. It was not just from our being apart, but from knowing that this was one of those worlds where if history had passed a different way, we would now be meeting new friends rather than considering how they perished.
As mission protocol dictates, we each branched off and investigated our own area of expertise. I quickly realised why such specific scientists are always attached to these exploration missions; each of our subjects almost randomly different, but in practice, inextricably linked.
Having concluded our work, we met back at the craft and linked arms again; the close comfort of friendship attempting to chase off the settled loneliness. I was caught up in it and drew a blank – who was Captain today? Brothers and sisters, equal, but someone needed to begin.
Eventually, someone else started.
“I’ll begin, then. But I must first say, the theory of science history falls short to prepare one’s emotions for practical use.
“You see they were nearly there. In fact, if they did not have some distinct setbacks, they maybe would have made it. There was a period where numbers and philosophy clashed, in a place known as Ancient Greece, and science was held back. There was a great library of a man or of a place called Alexandria, that was burned; all information lost. There was a Church that burnt scientists in a period called the Dark Ages. Had any of these things not happened, they would likely have been centuries ahead in philosophy and medicines and technology. They reached a stage where they understood evolution to a degree, right back to a primordial cell, they understood how their planet worked and their place in the universe, but it seems they never put their knowledge to use.”
I felt my grip tightening around my friends. Tales like this were always amongst the saddest ones. Another spoke.
“I must agree with your first point. I’ve learnt a great deal about politics in a sterile environment back home. But to see the fallout of a failed system with my own eye… no, I too was unprepared.
“The people of this planet were connected well, a great technology. People on one continent could speak to people on another as if they were standing as we are. These people found they were friends with similar interests and wants and needs despite geography and distance. They played games together, they read books together, they understood one another. Yet, I found disparity between this beauty of connected friendship and that of politics. People who were otherwise the same were sectioned apart by men with large egos who craved power; men who built walls across imagined borders and found reasons for people to hate one another. They called these sections ‘Nations’. They ignored that people were the same, and had them kill each other with laws of slavery that they called many things, such as conscription, as well as a sense of duty that they nurtured into national patriotism, to achieve the same goal.”
It was a sad tale indeed. Would I have to speak yet? No, someone else was starting.
“My friends. To your personal sentiments, I fear that none can be loathed as I in such circumstance. The realisation I have come to, in my chosen subject of Theology, is that without exception I find suffering as an intrinsic part of its real-world discovery. Therefore, I must ask of you to forgive my vehemence.
“This planet had varied religions that were mostly defined geographically – a common occurrence. People would become part of whatever religion they happened to be born into, and were generally manacled there for life. Their ability to free themselves from it was often marred by a lack of education, or, often-case, worse – these religions became powerful, and like my sister with politics; they used their power as a means of slavery. Death sentences for apostasy were not uncommon, and threats of eternal torture in other unproven dimensions were a firm favourite here. They used their power to draw borders between people who would have otherwise been the same, refused medical care to people unless they converted, denied science which could have improved conditions or saved lives, and then they used all these things as tools to help hold power over people. I found that when these corrupt religions were threatened, they used this power to manipulate and to kill.”
I wiped a tear from my single eye, taking longer than I needed to compose myself.
“As a professor of social sciences, these statements from each of you almost steal my voice, as I fight back the anguish that your words bring,” I said.
“These men and women, they did not realise. The whole galaxy was ahead of them. People of all nations met people of all other nations, and through their technology, talked to them as friends and colleagues, yet did not realise they were brothers and sisters. ‘Americans’ played computer games with ‘Russians’, and ‘Muslims’ played computer games with ‘Christians’, and yet none of them seemed to notice that there was something wrong with the way they were the same, yet carved into sections by imagined boundaries or carefully guarded scriptures.
“When the men in palaces were in danger of losing their material gains and the power that fed their egos, they did all they could to retain it. They slandered brothers, they built walls, they spoke lies and grew suspicious of the other men in palaces. They fired missiles at each other and killed brothers and sisters. They ignored the scientists who warned them of climate change because they were too busy spending their currency on wars and espionage, or hoarding it for themselves. If only the majority had taken heed and realised: this is one planet of one people, and each brother or sister is a global citizen, not a game piece for the men in palaces – it could have turned out so differently.”
We turned as one and began up the ramp. I glanced up at the side of our craft – it was not stamped with the name of a nation, to instil fear or superiority over another. It had the name of our planet, a shining beacon that everyone back home could be proud of.
As we stepped back inside the craft, the skin of my brothers and sisters painted a reflection across the archway. One green, one red, one black; and my own blue. How boring it would be if we were all the same colour, and how dangerous if we were to care about such things. As the door was shutting, Green spoke.
“They understood evolution, back to the primordial cell? Surely someone noticed that the reason single-cell organisms grew into multi-cell organisms – such as these humans – was because they worked together, as a team and as a community, towards common goals of growth and prosperity; rather than always fighting each other and killing each other. And that if this was naturally best for single-cells, surely multi-cell organisms with intelligence could work out this is best for them too?”
“Apparently not with humans,” I said, “Well at least now we know where The Golden Record we found attached to the Voyager One spacecraft came from. I suppose we’ll close the mission when we get back home.”
The door closed and we lifted off, leaving the desolated planet Earth, the pale blue dot, to spin lifelessly around the local star.
Attached: Image of collected Golden Record.