Literature

Space as Cathedral

Ancient Aliens
Ancient Aliens
Ancient Aliens is an American television series that premiered on April 20, 2010 on the History channel. | Photo: The History Channel | Link | Ancient Aliens, Church, Cathedral, Space, Moon, The History Channel,

Earth's inhabitants still suffer from that oedipal thing

The sorely missed and otherwise irreplaceable Sir Arthur C. Clarke summed up our dilemma superbly:

"Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."
This same scientific sage who brought you your satellite-driven ubiquitous ability to always be in touch (with the latest selfie of that creep who thinks she's your freaking electronic pen pal)--posited this thought, worth texting to her and anyone and everyone: "I'm sure the universe is full of intelligent life; it's just been too intelligent to come here."

Now, let's recall F. Scott Fitzgerald's pertient dictum about great minds being easily capable of hosting contradictory ideas, as it's time to confront the opposite notion embedded in his seminal tale, 'The Sentinel', later filmed as '2001: A Space Odyssey', his and Stanley Kubrick's monumentally incisive story of us and how we got so 'smart' (?). The term monumental is used advisedly, as the monolith at the heart of our jacked DNA is the tangible yet elusive manifestation of what Samuel Beckett (and the Hindu theology) called 'the unnamable.' It follows, of course, that being incapable of nomination, a nondescript rectangle with unknown abilities should represent the relieving notion (at least to this writer) that it looks nothing like us.

Nonetheless, 'they/it' did come here and some time ago, as in prehistorically. The evidence is all around us, and, without adequate precedential vocabularies, our ancestors settled upon the logical proposition best captured by the following: 'Well, I'm not sure about what just happened but it didn't kill us, has some really cool powers and they've given us some pretty impressive stuff, full stop, so, um, they must be Gods--let's write up some prayers, now that they've, um, taught us to write...'

The History Channel's program, 'Ancient Aliens' is in its 7th season, and, well, lays things out pretty well for those used to the skeptical refrain, driven by fear of academic tenure and publication denial, that amounts to 'show us a pot shard, anything.' Seriously, the pyramids won't cut it?

Back to Clarke and Kubrick's brilliant insights--hard as it is to fathom, the varying citations of their epic film almost always fail to explore the (literally) iconic Monolith, that opaque sentinel serving to jump start our evolution, today, much in need of innumerable retouchings (see monkeys awakening and touching scene, set right before one called 'moon watcher' starts fashioning a bone into a weapon to use on a less keen primate, a scene likely being replayed, at least in subject matter, on a TV screen certain to be near you almost anywhere--think of that rectangle as not quite the same as our Monolith despite the monolithic horse dung it dispenses regularly as news and entertainment.


It's right about here that your skeptical brain is urging you to ask: 'Why the Hell as these visitors so elusive?' Fair query, already anticipated by our friend Arthur Clarke--they're too smart for that, akin to not putting your hand in the lion cage at the zoo.

Even if they/it posess(es) superpowers which would make them/it impervious to such banal harm, why torment the obviously lesser creature, intelligent but savage (to invoke 'Starman's memorable phrase, thank you, John Carpenter). No, they/it know(s) that this would be egoistic, since they/it clearly would occasion more prayerful fear-driven worship. Superior beings just don't breach that basic universal bit of manners. Earth at present is a universal ghetto, in need of some serious urbane renewal, say Monolith 2.0; maybe Steve Jobs can, you know, make that happen, Douglas Adams style, on a stage at some 'restaurant at the end of the Universe'--but they/it wouldn't charge or even require tickets (see: definition of 'primitive', which we are and they/it aren't/isn't).

The social sciences, most notably anthropology, has named this phenomenon 'Cargo Cult'. Basically, whenever a more technologically advanced civilization encounters a lesser one, it's a certainty that either that greater one will either be seen as gods
and/or it'll be wiped out. (See: world history, especially the versions written by the winners, so-called; these dudes/it don't/doesn't roll that way).

Back in the early days of space exploration Margaret Mead and a bunch of other experts contracted by NASA wrote a freely available tome known as the Brookings Report (1959/1960); it advised 'don't tell anybody, it'll scare them, and wreak havoc on the established culture and society we've, you know, built up, by conquering other lesser societies, what we call the status quo.'

Irony must not be taught to social scientists--ironic, isn't it?

T.S. Eliot said it well: "Murder in the Cathedral", his only play; isn't it time we downloaded Monolith 2.0, it's probably got a public domain license from...them/it.

The Sentinel envisioned by Clarke & Kubrick, then, must have long ago transmitted this message back to it/them:

"Planet, seventh from outer reaches of solar system XYZ, inhabited by primates whose DNA, while able to be enhanced, yields a dominating species intelligent but savage; recommend continued oblique contact and surveillance with low probability of acceptance of relative inferiority without insincere fear-driven worship. Prior augmentation of DNA deemed by their scientists 'junk'....inhabitants' persist in characterizing historic happenings in another galaxy far, far away involving humanoids of what they quaintly deem the 'past' in the context of 'wars'. Transmission concluded, will advise as developments warrant."
As it/they aboard the Mothership receiving that transmission nodded what we might consider their crania in agreement, a screen was tuned into another transmission, also from Earth, a film entitled 'A Few Good Men'; it featured a war official, one Col. Nathan R. Jessup, baring his teeth, apelike, declaring: "You can't handle the truth!" Sadly, the alien heads continued to nod, apparently a universal sign of agreement.

To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, it seems there's a murderer in the cathedral... of space.

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Updated May 10, 2017 9:56 AM EDT | More details

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