Monday, 17 October 2016
Gaining Stars And Losing Soul?
"Humankind, gaining the stars, is in grave danger of losing its soul." (The Van Rijn Method, p. 180)
An earlier generation could gain the world and lose its soul but future generations will have a longer reach. "Soul" means culture and identity? How might mankind lose it?
"Our extraterrestrial colonies are fragmenting into new nations, whole new cultures, to which Earth is scarcely a memory." (ibid.)
So those parts of mankind are gaining new identities, not just losing old ones - although some will also preserve languages, religions etc. Poul Anderson shows us these things happening on Aeneas, Hermes, Dennitza etc.
"Our traders, our explorers push ever outward, ever further away; and no missionary spirit drives them, nothing but lust for profit and adventure." (ibid.)
"Lust" is an absurd word here. Adventure at least cannot be reprehensible. In fact, it is part of our culture. Traders and explorers are distinct though connected. Traders either send explorers or follow in their wake. Economic motives are primary. First people eat, then they build culture and identity. Should spacefarers go forth neither to profit nor to explore but to evangelize Terrestrial cultures? In "Esau," van Rijn's company is able to staff a remote trading post only with those who see it as a career stepping stone or who go there to conduct scientific research.
"Meanwhile the Solar Commonwealth is deluged with alien - nonhuman - influence, not only diplomats, entrepreneurs, students, and visitors, but the false glamor of ideas never born on man's true home -" (ibid.)
Need I comment?
"We grant we have learned much of value from these outsiders." (ibid.)
This is damning with faint praise and also contradicts the previous statement.
"But much has been unassimilable or has had a disastrously distorting effects, especially in the arts." (ibid.)
The unassimilable need not be assimilated but can continue to be studied. Artists must be free to express themselves and sometimes follow strange paths.
"Besides they are learning more from us." (ibid.)
OK. Fact. Among oxygen-breathers, mankind was first in space in its immediate galactic region - in this particular future history - so Ythrians, Wodenites, Merseians etc learn from mankind. I am not sure about Cynthians?
"Let us proudly affirm that fact." (ibid.)
The fact can be acknowledged but need not be chauvinistically asserted.
"Let us hark back to our own origins, our own variousness. Let us strike new roots in the soil from which our forebears sprang." (ibid.)
Our soul is in the soil! The Terrestrial past can be celebrated without denigrating other cultures.