Friday, September 22, 2017

Mars



The first humans on Mars ought to arrive before the end of my lifetime unless my lifestyle disapproves of me being alive between now and then. The people who go on that mission, and it’s going to be a long one, will have to be of the type who are focused and dedicated, and for the privilege of being the first there, they’ll have to lose a great deal of time doing normal human stuff like family and friends and dogs. It will take the better part of two years to get there, I would suppose they would stay on Mars for a while, and then fly two years back. That’s a very long time.

Magellan’s trip around the world took three years and he never saw the end. But at any point he could have landed somewhere and found people, food, water, help maybe, and the environment wasn’t so hostile that it would have killed him in a matter of minutes. If the AE-35 Unit on the trip to Mars dies on them then they better have a spare or they’re just out of luck. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have some important part fail and there be no replacement. Oh, we have enough air to last us a few days then that’s it. That’s not impossible, you know.



And that’s just in the two years getting there.


Once there they have to land, and by then we’ll have a much better understanding of where’s the best place, and if we’re smart we will have landed a bunch of stuff there already, for the First People on Mars to use. I imagine the first couple of days will be filled with both giddiness and more than a little fever. Everything they do will be a first in many ways. The first bowel movement on Mars, the first dream on Mars, the first meal on Mars, the first sunset, sunrise, moon rise, moon set, the first falling start seen there, and the list goes on. There most certainly will be a mixed gender crew and the first sexual encounter ought to be interesting.


How long can we keep humans on Mars, at what expense, and for what gain? Certainly, just to prove we can put people there is enough in the beginning, but can we actually colonize the planet? Whose laws govern this? What will be the ultimate goal of those who go? Will we have reached a point that science in the name of science will be enough to keep people coming and going there? We abandoned the moon in the late 60’s, so how can we hope to have the heart for Mars? It frightens me that we lack the desire to explore.

So let’s say we send eight people; four couples just to keep things simple. These eight people will spend no less than ten years together. They’ll have to train together for a couple of years, and it is likely they won’t know at that point if they’ve been selected or not. Then, once they are selected the training will get more intense, and each couple knows that both parties are one when it comes to this thing. They have to know they have to play nice all the time with everyone to keep a seat on the ride. That, in and of itself, would take a lot of doing for some people and a lot more for others. Imagine it like this:  You are in the eighth grade. You are in a small town where everyone knows everyone else. The beginning of High School is a year off. Graduation is at least five years away. Imagine what you’ll go through before you’re out of school. That’s about the length of this mission, if not longer.

Impressed with the time yet?


So we’re done with time. Let’s talk about space. Space the living room not the vacuum. They ship is going to have to be a lot bigger than a standard sized apartment. There will have to be room to exercise, eat meals, work, and perhaps, play. Having eight people in a small area is a recipe for weightless fist fights and all sorts of weirdness. There has to be some of black room, where each person or couple can go to get away from everyone else. I’m thinking about 1500 square feet of space, total, for the ship. But the damn thing is going to be packed with food and equipment, so it might be even more.

One way around this is for there to be stuff they can pick up on the way there. That would be damn tricky but totally doable. Two of the people onboard would have to be physicians. I’m thinking there would have to be some sort of redundant birth control, of course, because a baby born in a space station, or on Mars, would be a hell of a lot of trouble. Can you imagine a screaming infant all the way back from Mars? Are we there yet are we there yet are we there yet?

Once they get there, I wonder how long they’ll be allowed to stay? Surely no less than a year, perhaps. That’s where my theory that the landing site will already have some stuff air dropped and operating before the first people arrive, and maybe some robots setting up a secure building. How Sweet Home would await our Great Eight, the first humans on Mars! After the initial call home, and the cheer and Champaign back on Earth, the first people on Mars would have to get busy so the planet wouldn’t kill them.

It’s possible, you know, that the eight sent would know something that only NASA and a few others knew before they left; it’s a one way trip. These are permanent residents who will set up what is needed for more people and in some years to follow, a colony. They would be the first people to live on Mars and to die there. I would go if they allowed it, you know.

Take Care,

Mike

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Dream of Slaves.



I once had a dream where I was a slave, but the reality that surrounded me wasn’t anything I have seen or known. I had the feeling it was the distant past, perhaps in Europe or Russia, but it could have been on an alien world or a dreamscape world. The idea that I might dream of a world whose existence is unknown to humans is a little odd in and of itself, but so is the idea of dreams. That something leaks out of my brain and I am able to remember it in great detail, as if it were a memory, but it is not a memory, but in point of fact, fiction, is strange enough on its own.

But this is about slavery, not dreams, and even though most of us feel in some way trapped in the existence in which we live, we are not slaves to anything but our level of comfort. We are not trees; we can leave. I know of no one who cannot quit the job they hold right at this moment and simply walk away from it all. No matter how badly a person might be treated in their employment there is always the idea that something might be worse if they leave that holds them there, not their employer.

When we are children we may live with strict parents and long for the day we are no longer under their control, but our childhoods are shorter than we realize and often we are ill prepared for real life. Yet a slave has no dreams of freedom. They are born in bondage. They die in bondage. Their lives are bondage. There is no other reality that they know, unless they have been kidnapped and brought into slavery. Yet in my dream the slaves were born into slavery and none knew of any life other than that.


It would be hard for most people to imagine, or even try to imagine, but for many years in this country personal freedom was denied, brutally denied, to an entire race of people. They were born, lived, and died, enslaved. The fruits of their labors went to others and at some point you have to wonder what the retirement plan looked like for older slaves. What was it like to be unable to work, or to be injured? The inhumanity we think of is brutal but what we never think about is the depth of it, and how widely accepted that it was, and how that sort of treatment towards other human beings was absolutely normal. As the slaves were being born slaves, even those people who were not slave owners were born living in an environment where there were human beings who were not considered to be so.


For slavery to really take its full amount of evil, there has to be three classes of people; the slaves, the slave owners, and those who do not own slaves, but do not speak out against it. As long as the third class of people exists, slavery is not only possible but also accepted.

I sat down and wrote the dream out, and tried to find some way to put myself in the chains, to imagine what life would be like as a slave, and found I had no reference points at all. It would be one thing to be kidnapped, stolen away, and have memories of life before slavery, but what would it be like to be born and raised as a slave? You see these dogs tethered to a tree with a six foot chain who live in a small wooden house with relief from the heat or cold, no medical treatment and only a small bowl for water and randomly fed, yet they are happy, in a sense, when anyone pays them any positive attention. Can we expect that a human being might be similarly kept, yet still find some small happiness? It is in a dog’s nature to roam, to run free and to play, and do those things that a dog will do. What is the nature of a man who was born a slave? Deprived of early education, taught nothing but submission from birth, beaten for any infraction and seeing nothing but obedience in older slaves, could that man look past the pain and oppression to yearn for something he could not define to himself? Would he be able to look at a problem and begin to think that he could solve it, his intellect subdued but not dead, and believe that he is more than a farm animal? When he looks at a woman he had impregnated, a relationship denied to them both, and simple coerced breeding to maintain the population of slaves, would not that man feel the desire to be a father, a husband, and the head of a family? How could he not feel this, if this is the natural state of a human being?

There is no happy ending for this story that I write about this man. His inner turmoil is institutionally amputated from his mind and his soul through abuse and starvation. The overseers brutally set up competition between salves for food, sex, rest, water, shelter, and so they view one another as nothing more than an obstacle to what little happiness might be had. The slaves view their maters as gods, all knowing, all seeing, and all powerful. In the end, the slave is injured trying to lift a large stone, and he meekly submits to be led to his death, which is followed by being fed to the farm’s pigs.

As graphic as the tale might be, however, it pales beside the reality of modern slavery. It’s not a dream but a nightmare across the globe. Sex trafficking, forced labor, and inhumane conditions for workers is very real, and it still goes on, even here in America, the land of the free, except for those who are not, and those who are forgotten, and those who wonder if there will ever be anything better.

Take Care,

Mike

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Crops and Circles




Depending on which crop the farmer decided to grow, there was a field behind the house I grew up in, until 1972, where I wandered with total impunity. I say that it depended on the crop because peanuts, which grow very low to the ground, held no real fascination for us boy kids, who used the field as a hiding place from adults. Cotton wasn’t high enough to hide us either but we discovered we could sit or lie down on the dirt and disappear. But corn was the best crop ever, for a child could enter the field and a few rows later become totally invisible.

Even very early in life I found it comforting to be hidden from view, and I craved it more as I grew older. Even if there were other children around, I knew the best way to get gone from view; all that was really needed was to go further out into the field than the others would. Most craved the perimeter, the edge of home base, the comforting idea that the green had not totally devoured the mind and body, but I like going deeper and deeper. I could hear my companions calling my name, and as long as I could hear them I had not gone deep enough.

During peanut season the field was an open book and it contours and low spots where landmarks for us to see easily. But the corn hid everything, and confused the senses. There was the green in front of the eyes and the blue of the sky, nearly hidden by the top of the corn plants, and there was the Earth at our bare feet, and everyone was bare footed those days. But I knew the earth sloped towards the southwest corner of the field, and I knew where the water ponded during a wet spell, and I knew that the dirt was a lighter color between the tennis courts which was on the road where we all lived. It tended to be most of the kids’ easternmost border in the field and I knew when the dirt got darker I was not likely to be followed. Yet eastward there were humans, and it was not humans which drew me.

Northward was the great unknown. There were strange woods and we all knew better than to go there. It was perhaps a half a mile away, maybe more or less, there is no way to reconcile the memories of a child and reality, but I remember my desire to see this woods, and my plan to go there alone, for no one else would go. The rows of the corn were ploughed straight and true, running from east to west, and I knew as long as I kept the rows counter to my path, slipping easily between one stalk and another, I was headed north. Finally, like a ship at sea I spotted my first treetop, far ahead, and I stopped and sat in the dirt, and drank water from my small canteen, as if I had reached appoint that I might still claim victory of the unknown yet not endanger myself in it. I could stop now and still claim I was there, or I could go forward. I forged ahead until I came out clear of the corn.

The woods were a comfort to me, and they always have been. It was not the animals in the woods that filled me with fear but the idea that there might be human beings who were strangers that frightened me. There in the strange woods I felt a sense of destiny somehow, that one day I would live somewhere there were trees and wildness, and it was there I felt if there was a real home. There are those who are fearful of what might live in a strange woods but I only fear those things that cannot live there. I was disappointed not to see some new species of bird, or perhaps the tracks of a dinosaur. The trees looked very familiar, as all trees do to those like myself, and I drank water from a small canteen in the shadows of these trees, and knew that this was what I had traveled so far for.

I followed my own footsteps back, small indentions in the soft earth of the cornfield, and as I left the strange woods I entered the vastness of the corn, the green sea of exploration, and I was startled at how much older I felt. This was the first time I had ventured out so far, so alone, and used reason and logic to gain my path. I kept counter to the rows, following the path I had made until I finally reached the moist ground that began the low spot in the field, and after muddying my feet again, I realized the tracks I followed were still mine but now they were also of someone who had ventured into the unknown, and I knew that I was different than that child. I felt envy, because there were no other forbidden woods to reach near us, and I felt a sense of superiority, for that child had feared what now I did not.

I began to see other footprints from the other children, and finally the trees that marked the borders that we called home. I emerged from the corn again, near where I had started, alone still, but I knew that now the day would not hold for me any adventure or play that might sate me. I was perhaps six or seven at this time. My parents would have been dismayed at this feat, and enraged. But there is no stopping those who wish to disappear, and there is no keeping safe those whose will is drawn to the woods, and there is no other shelter for those who would call home the ground that is shaded by the shadow of the trees’ shade. I have never stepped into the woods and not felt at home.

Take Care,
Mike