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Interplanetary Samsara

With all of this chatter in the news about Mars exploration and Elon Musk’s push to “seed” the Red Planet with human life because, well, he has (rightly) determined that we will eventually “delete” ourselves on this planet, several people have asked recently my views on the subject.

For whatever it’s worth, my views, in meme-form:

Developing better “outer-technology” is not the solution for the matter of human suffering; accessing the already-available “inner-technologies” is.

A fascinating article on the subject was recently published in Slate. (I found it thanks only to the ever-thoughtful intellectual-seeding of social media by the writer and theologian, Addison Hodges Hart.)

If the dream of space travel involves new horizons and feelings of unbound freedom—to explore, to discover, to spread humanity—a nightmare lurks just around the corner of consciousness. There will be no real “arrival” on this fantasy trip: It’s enclosures and pressurized chambers all the way down. When it comes to human space travel, the destination really is the journey. And the journey will be long, and claustrophobic. As far as “quarantine” goes, spacefaring may feel familiar to those who lived through the COVID pandemic—and certain survival tactics may crossover.

Musk wants to send humans to Mars (and beyond) because he believes that the species is doomed on Earth, sooner or later. This bleak assessment belies two haunting presuppositions: The miserable masses will wither on a climate-scorched and ecologically damaged planet back home; meanwhile, the spacefaring select will find themselves in a whole new purgatory of cramped isolation, en route and wherever they “land.”

The wish image of habitations on other planets is for simulated environments that feel as good as—if not better than—our home planet. The reality is bound to be precarious and highly contingent—no matter how awesome and intact space settlements might appear in artistic renderings. The motivation for spacefaring is, at least for Musk, premised on a desire to escape a planet in limbo; but the alternative is hardly a safe haven. This is the paradox of spacefaring: It’s a lose-lose proposition.


Enough said.

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