They laid on their backs, staring intently at the clear night sky hoping to witness ‘a’ stellar movement, any stellar movement. Of course they were 8 years old & wishing for the stars. But the innocence in their wish almost made the universe transpire that event.
Remo had just finished reading a sci-fi story about how humans meet with aliens after a long, deliberate struggle to find if there is life in the universe. The story captured the essence of mankind’s dream to find the answer to that question, ‘Are we alone?’ He had also enjoyed the story of Carl Sagan’s Contact, which his dad read to him, about an astronomer who decodes an alien signal & also gets to go on a journey to meet with them. This sort of imagery always fascinated him. He couldn’t fathom the fact that this sort of thing isn’t already happening. After all the advancement he knew & read about, it seemed so odd that there hasn’t been any contact with any extraterrestrial species yet. He had almost started to believe that the enormity of space is wasted if there is no one else to share it with.
Dex had heard his friend out, patiently, all the while when he had voiced his concerns about ‘we’ being alone in the universe & had shown a slight distaste for Remo’s penchant for desperately trying to find some other species out there. He had never given a second thought to it, although he was extremely curious himself to figure how the answer would turn out to be. He even scribbled pictures of alien encounters & drew large bug sized creatures communicating with the humans. He had an elaborate idea for a comic strip, but not enough punch to believe in it himself.
Dex was one of those odd little 8 year olds who knew that there was something wrong with the equation. Something didn’t make sense. He had been learning in school about the history of the world, the animal kingdom & how animals have been living with the humans since millions of years & so on. All this seemed very peculiar to his mind. He always believed it to be very obvious that when humans meet another species from outer space, it would be the same like meeting a totally new species of animals or plants or other humans out here on Earth. What would we do when we finally meet them?
Hollywood had too many scary answers & he spun out all the DVD’s to find a sensible solution. None emerged. Not equipped to understand the human condition, he was thinking purely from the world eye view of a novice, juvenile, yet dangerously curious observer. Almost with a scientist’s skepticism for the mystical, he realized that why would someone want to travel all the way, spending so much effort just to see if there’s anybody else out there? Isn’t it peculiar that the transit must pay for itself?
Remo objected, “What fuel are you using?”
Dex was caught by surprise. He hadn’t thought about it. If it’s cheap enough to make the trip, the answer becomes worth knowing. But Dex went to a different line of thought.
“Hey Rim! Do you think we are alone for a reason?”
“What!!!?” Remo jumped back, almost sitting upright on this ridiculous remark.
“No, no listen!” exclaimed Dex.
He asked Remo to be patient, his eyes oozed of grave doubt & uncertainty over his logic, yet he showed a different determination on his face. Remo sensed a whopper coming. Dex was never this serious, unless he had a really good argument, he knew from experience.
“Look at it this way, Miss D from our school, you know; she lives alone, ok?” asked Dex.
Remo nodded in silence, waiting for the punch-line.
“I heard when she was talking to my mom one day that, she thinks she’s going to be alone for the rest of her life”, said Dex.
Remo was still waiting.
“But you see Rim, she has so many people around her, which she seems to not notice”, Dex was really concerned.
“She thinks she is alone, because she wants to believe it.” Remo finally moved some cheek muscles, but with enormous effort, “But what do you mean? Why we are alone in the universe has nothing to do with why Miss D thinks she is alone.”
Dex grinned. “Yes there is.”
Dex jumped back after an extra second’s pause.
“We are so used to finding ourselves alone ever since we are looking at the stars, so like Miss D, we might have gotten to believe that there is no one out there. Maybe our need to find someone isn’t great enough to actually go & find someone.”
Remo gave a hearty laugh. “What about all the space missions?” asked Remo.
“What fuel are you using?” Dex asked with smug delight.
“Ok, I get you. You think to find something quicker we need to use different means to find it, not the same one’s which match our needs here on Earth?” Remo crystallized it.
“Yuuuppp!” Dex pursed his lips, but not with the final word.
“You know what worries me Rim, I think we might be living in an illusion of being alone.” Dex came back with another one.
“Ok, What?” Remo had his smug moment now.
“I think we have been found already, we just don’t know it yet, since no one has made any announcements to us through the media that we use”, Dex did have a point.
“You mean we have already got what we want to know, we just don’t know how to read it?” Remo was back with one of his clarifying tones.
“Wow! I’d have never thought of this”, Remo frowned with a tinge of curiosity.
“But Dex!!!” Remo called back in a hurry, this time he actually got up.“But, if, we have already been found, then what do you think are those species thinking about us? I mean, we have such old technology which clearly can’t even know that they are talking to us, what would they think of us?” A small ball of sweat rolled off Remo’s brow.
“Slaves?” Dex came back with the most obvious HOLLYWOOD solution to Remo’s ingenious question.
“What!!” Remo was furious. “I won’t be a slave to some slimy creature just because he can travel all the way to my home planet. I don't want to be no slave to a Columbus.”
A lightning bolt struck in Dex’s tiny brain. “That’s what we would have done.”
Remo booed off the idea, “No way! No way at all. We would be much nicer to them & we would learn their technology, their culture, their lifestyle, everything about them. We would never make them our slaves. Never ever.”
After a dramatic pause, Dex came into the spotlight of the argument. “Even when we know that they would be defenseless to our technology, we would still want them to be our friends or worse; would we still treat them with respect?”
“Yes! Why not! They are surviving the same harsh space as we are, they deserve the same credit of free existence as we do”, Remo raged forward again. He almost resembled his dad.
Dex frowned now, “look at most of the species here Rim, look at them real hard. Who do you think is their boss?”
“Mother Nature ofcourse” came back Remo.
“I wish it was that easy. We read about the Aztecs right? What happened to them? Some conquistador came in & destroyed their culture, they had primitive technology & they refused to give in.” Dex recounted history. “Look at all the animals; we use most of them as our food, as our slaves, as our pets, just because they can’t revolt.”
“But they can revolt” Remo had a point. “Why? Do you think animals are dumb?”
“No Rim” Dex reasoned, “I think some of them like the idea of ‘life’ instead of a ‘struggling life’. They get food, place to live.”
A tiny glimmer of insight was being forged in the fires of Dex’s mind. He was finally coming face to face with the human condition, thinking beyond his ability to pursue such a thought. He was, as we know it, at the brink of a moral, philosophical revelation. This was Dex’s stellar movement. The universe has ears which listen farther than we can imagine they could listen.
Their hearts pounded in their ribs. They thought about everything in one second. All life on Earth would be a meaningless existence if it would be found by any other species, before we find some other species. All those years spent in research to find something more, something better, this ever evolving technology would vaporize in a puff of slavery, as we are ill-equipped for an inter stellar struggle for our freedom. What fuel would we use?
Man’s penchant for tinkering renders it impossible for him to stay put & always throws him at crossroads of an explorative journey, just to know what else he might find out there. Are we using it right?