"Why Space" Part II - We Need an Edge
Original ArticleThis month I began a series of postings entitled: "Why space?" as part of an explanation as to why so many of us, from geeks to dot com billionaires and others, are so passionate about what is about to happen in space, just as others decry the end of the space age, the collapse of our ecosystem and the fall of our civilization.
This week I shall continue the flow.
I was asked by a friend last week why I am focused on the spiritual level when we need real and down to Earth "money in my pocket" reasons to get people excited. He is right, we do. However, people are also powerfully motivated by reasons that have nothing to do with money, or there would be no churches, no Olympics, no art nor science. Ideally they all work together -- especially in the face of new frontiers.
So be patient. I will be working my way down to science, economics and businesses like those seen being formed in what we call the NewSpace industry and even a few national policy proposals as I move ahead.
So... "Why space?"
When asked this question some might answer with the traditional "Because it's there." Fine for a mountain, insufficient for a frontier. There are as many reasons to open the space frontier as there will be humans to go there, and if history is our guide, although at first it will be only a few, the numbers will grow enormously.
But the real reason, the one necessary and sufficient reason we are called to the space frontier, is buried deep within us. It is a feeling, a knowing in our hearts when we look starward on a clear night. The same feeling that some of our earliest ancestors had as they looked across a new valley, or stood upon the shores of unsailed oceans. First fear, then curiosity, and then, for some, a calling. A calling which pulls us to go, to see, to do, to be there. It has created us and we have always responded to it.
Homo Sapiens is a frontier creature. It is what we do, it defines what we are. This has been true from our very beginnings. It is the core reason our progenitors wandered forth from the first primordial valleys in search of more room, better hunting or more fertile soil. Often they traveled to escape the dominance of this or that tribal bully, or faced with over-crowding, to find a place of their own. Each time this migration occurred far more stayed and endured than sought the new, but it was the new-seekers who changed the world, and in many ways created new worlds of their own.
While most remained as huddled masses, accepting of the powers that be, constrained by the limits of their time, stuck in the routines of mere survival, there has always been a small group who want more -- those who are dissatisfied, who don't fit in, who cannot accept the constraints of the status quo, who dream, or who simply want to "know" what is out there. To these, the edge of the known did not represent danger, but opportunity. And each time they have stepped towards the edges of their world, they have been ridiculed, ostracized even restrained at times by those whose "world order" was threatened. Yet somehow they always seem to break free, to break out -- again, it is the human way -- for we shall not be bound -- be it by the restraints of smaller minds nor, in this case, gravity itself.
Each time these pioneers expanded into new realms they discovered the old ways wouldn't work. Whenever a new domain was inhabited by humans old survival patterns were left behind, and new patterns created. Although often repressed or restrained by their societies, history has shown repeatedly that these changes in behavior, technology and culture were necessary for the society as a whole to remain vital, and without them cultures become stagnant, closed and deadened, often turning on themselves. Without an edge the center comes apart.
As we have seen in our own history, the injection of new ideas from other worlds transformed life for all, and with the establishment of new frontier communities far from the reach of the old world, new social systems also formed, more in tune with the fact that it was the individual who had to make the decisions and do the work of pioneering. New ways of perceiving the human condition and the universe we live in were born.
In space we will continue to redefine ourselves, as hundreds, then thousands, then millions of us take our places at the edge of the human realm. The value of what it means to be human will increase, as the lives of individuals, settlements and towns remain under constant threat of death by the harsh forces we find there. Life's worth will be the soul of such societies and the measure of a person will be what they can carve out of the frontier for themselves and their families, what they can do to expand the human domain, and how they thus serve our civilization.
Just as many are saying it is time to lower expectations, a whole new class of expectation can be created. A child on Earth, previously forced to look to sports figures, flamboyant criminals and entertainers for their self image will find new heroes to emulate. The idea of living in the question rather than settling for the answers of yesterday will become the new normal. Our society's youth will grow up knowing that tomorrow can be better, that there are alternatives for the future, that there are living, breathing humans of all colors and creeds out there in the sky building new worlds. Imagine knowing it is all there waiting, as opposed to being behind you, and all you can do is fight to slow the fall of the civilization that gave you life.
I believe we will go to space because we have to in order to continue our growth as human beings. There is little choice involved. In fact there's only one to be made. Open the frontier as our spirit and soul tells us, excel, climb, grow, live large and transform hope into a new and glorious reality as we reach for the brilliance of the stars... or perish, sinking in the sands of the sustainable, fading out in the oblivion of the adequate.