#97 July 1996
Section 126.96.36.199.097.of the Artemis Data Book
by Peter Kokh
MMM#97 - July, 1996
WARNING: this article reflects the writer's personal spirituality and may be offensive or troubling to some personal sensitivities. Please do feel free to skip it.
Beyond the Mother Biosphere (i.e. beyond Earth) the vulnerability of the human condition will perhaps be even more starkly revealed. Yet, as we learn to cope with "alien and hostile conditions" we may be even more prone to temptations of hubris; "We can go it alone! Look see! We are!" In the end, the raw forces of nature, as heedless of our presence as we are of anthills underfoot, will as always put a damper on that.
For the most part, the reactions of future Lunans will not differ. Those who believe that God plays both sides of the chessboard, determining the physical and material things that come our way on the one hand, and then helping us to cope with all these events on the other, thus making us pawns, will continue to have enormous difficulty handling deep personal tragedies (sickness, death, failure of relationships, financial catastrophe, etc.). This is the standard posture of most "give us this day our daily bread" type religions. You hear it repeatedly in the news when someone who has just won the lottery says, "You see, there is a God!" (What about for the the rest of us, who did not win ?) Posture one.
Those who believe, on the other hand, that God lets the world happen without interference ... ever, that the material and physical events which effect us are not an indication of his personal care and favor, or disfavor - these persons have never that same intense and critical need to know "why, why?". They live confident that, should we seek it, we will always find the strength and grace to handle anything that comes our way, and grow to become better persons because of it, and will go on through thick or thin to do just that. Posture two.
Nothing connected with living on the Moon or anywhere else in space, as opposed to living on Earth, will change any of this. Life is not easy. This is, Earth and anywhere else, "a vale of tears". No amount of continued technological and medical progress will ever change that. The hardships of life make all of us susceptible to one version or another of the world's oldest confidence game, games which in the end cannot deliver consistently. Those who swear by their gimme-gimme faith, are able to do so, because, perhaps without realizing it, they have found their own way into the second posture above.
On Earth, "Nature" has a strong duality, the geophysical forces of the planet itself, and the biological forces of plant and animal life, and their ecosystems. Repeatedly, we see that the forces of the former operate with total inattention to those of the latter. Nature as geophysical force is responsible for all those manifestations that induce in us profound "awe". Nature as life is more responsible for evoking the sense of "beauty". The two together, a striking geological landscape setting clothed in life, instill a sense of awe and beauty together. This is how it has been for us from time immemorial living on this geologically active planet whose every niche, seemingly friendly or not, life has sooner or later found one way or another to colonize.
On the barren Moon, Mars, or elsewhere, it will be quite a different story. For future space frontier pioneers "Nature" will present herself as geology alone, not tempered by biology. Awe without beauty. Flora and fauna will exist only within manmade environments wherein its cycles will be controlled. The biota of mini-biospheres will come across as post-human "nature", not pre-human "Nature".
Apropos of our topic, in mini-biospheres, even in high domed or vaulted megastructures with an impressive achievement of varied biological diversity, one will not be as moved, on looking out the window of one's residence, to be filled with awe and beauty and remark to himself "God has made a beautiful world". Many may overlook the fact that these artificial biomes rely on genetic resources that we have found given to us in the Mother Biosphere, and feel less humble gratitude, more unwarranted human pride. We can hope that any such initial widespread reaction will in time be corrected and that respect, humility and gratitude will return.
Yet, precisely because of this artificialness factor, a conscious attempt at deliberate harmony may be deeper and stronger among space frontier settlers than it is among most of us. In mini-biospheres everywhere, people will live rather immediately "downwind and downstream of themselves", with any environmental sins coming back to haunt them not generations later, but in very very short order. On the space frontier, environmental consciousness is likely to be extraor-dinarily strong, both in depth and width.
On Earth, the presence of Mother Nature has always been strong. In comparison, relatively few feel to the same degree the presence of Father Sky. It is an important and critical duality, and religious and spiritual traditions which do not speak to it, inevitably provide us with distorting filters through which to interpret the universe about us.
On the Moon, the tables will be turned somewhat, as this time, the surface of our adopted world with its barren and sterile expanses totally naked to the elements of cosmic weather, will clearly belong to the province of Father Sky, rather than Mother Nature who now will greet us only from within our mini-biosphere oases. This major-minor shift in the melody of stimuli that impinge on our spiritual sensitivities will express itself inevitably and subtly in our literature, song, legend, myth, and other cultural expressions.
The overall effect of the world's various scriptures, whatever the sacred writers may have intended in each case, is to serve as an amplifier. Scriptures have always been used, and always will be used to justify whatever one has done or is about to do anyway. This is said not in harsh judgment, but in honest observation.
Judeo-Christian scriptures, specifically Genesis, are often cited to justify a belief that Man is "lord and master" of creation. Nature is chattel which like the chattel version of "wife", one is allowed to, expected to abuse into submission.
It is against this distortion that the more recent correction which holds we are stewards of nature, has had to struggle. In this paradigm, it is our humble responsibility and great privilege to preserve nature's balances and harmonies, and to pass them on in as integral a condition as we can, to the generation(s) that follow us.
Sadly, many space enthusiasts who see space only from the viewpoint of hardware (if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem appears to be a nail) are among those in the forefront of resistance to this new paradigm. But not only must we catch up here, we must move beyond.
Pioneers of the space frontier, living with biological ecosystems in mini-biosphere oases, will come to see their relationship with nature as one of much more than stewardship. Our interdependent symbiotic bond with plant and animal species also pioneering the space frontier with us side by side will become fully apparent. We will have progressed beyond wife beating to paternal benevolence and then finally to a true partnership of mutual respect and support.
The barren reaches of space, the lifeless shores of raw worlds quite unlike Earth, offer unprecedented opportunity for new illustration, adaptation, expression, and challenge of and to the human potential. (1) using new suites of raw materials, resourcefully, for building, manufacturing, and artistic expression; (2) adapting to all new ecospheric-biospheric niches; (3) overcoming new sets of challenges and difficulties. We've done this before as humans left the forests and savannas of Africa to populate the mountains, the coasts, the deserts, the northern forests, even the arctic tundra. Each time we accepted the challenge calling us "to be all we can be" and thus to reveal ever more deeply the glory and depth of the human plan, of the human soul. The Moon , Mars, the asteroids and space in general now present us with whole new challenges. Not to embrace them would be self-contraceptive, to thwart whatever divine plan lurks in our as yet not fully tapped capacities. We are called to worship, not just on Earth, but from everywhere.
Many a writer has independently come to the same eureka of understanding: the phenomenon of man is the awakening of the universe as self-aware. Beyond that, and along side it, there is an increasing humble awareness and new sense of awesome responsibility of our neo-technological species as the reproductive organ of Gaia. We are not a goal-choosing population unto ourselves. We have a vocation rooted in the nature of what we are as intelligent tool users. We are stewards of Earth-life, yes. But much more than that! In Life's incredible ongoing epic march from one limited niche-plex to another, it is now our turn to lead the advance. Life first emerged from the sea onto the land and into the sky. Now life would leap from Earth's surface into space, but can only do so through us. Only by so reproducing beyond the confines of Cradle Earth, can Earth-life/Gaia gain a hedge against mortality and vulnerability to threats internal and external. We have the "essential" role to play. We are the lung-fish of our own latter day time in a cross-the-threshold annexation of a whole new universe of horizons for life. The collective awareness of all this is sure to grow and may well become controlling. Our more-than-environmental responsibility index may reach unprecedented high levels.
Perhaps then it would be more accurate to say that the phenomenon of man is an instance of Earth-life becoming self-aware, rather than the cosmos as a whole. After all that would be quite pretentious on our part to presume. For it is Earth-life to which we have a custodial relationship, rather than planets, stars and star clusters, much less the cosmos as a whole. It is Earth-life we seem destined to help reproduce not the cosmos. As with all metaphors, this one breaks down too if pressed to far. In man, the very last thing you would associate with foresight and intelligence are the reproductive organs.
Earth was fertile turf for the natural rise of life. Most other worlds present conditions which preclude the rise of life, but (as in the case of Mars and Europa, at least) not necessarily the transplant of life already developed. First we will impregnate the still barren sibling worlds of Earth about our own Sun. And some distant day we may begin to transform other stars into true suns by giving them Gaia-fertilized worlds of their own to shine upon.
Or we might here and there find ourselves called upon to reawaken stalled eco-system starts. It is only in the light of this emergent reproductive fertility of Gaia through man that worlds of themselves barren are now revealed to be not sterile, just virginal. It is only man that can make the Moon, Mother Moon, and Mars, Mother Mars, Europa, Mother Europa. Our expansion, with Earth life or Gaia, into the universe at large is beyond something neat or satisfying to do, it is the fulfillment of an epic vocation bigger than, much much older than man.
Contents of this issue of Moon Miners' Manifesto