Ever since it was announced on February 22nd that there are maybe seven other planets like Earth that could harbour life – maybe intelligent life – I have been asking myself these questions:
Why is it that we are so fascinated by the world out there?
Maybe because we are intelligent life intellectually stimulated by the mysteries of the vast unknown?
Or maybe because we are lonely beings desperately looking for someone outside our known territory for some companionship?
Then, why are we feeling so lonely?
Maybe because being intelligent life, with no one else to communicate at our intellectual level, is far lonelier than we knew?
Or maybe because loneliness is felt stronger when being together with 7.5 billion other beings just like oneself but never quite knowing how to communicate with one another?
When the people around me talk about this new and exciting discovery, they usually talk about what it would be like to travel to and explore their land, excavate and bring home some kind of evidence of life, and evaluate if we could immigrate to live permanently. But to me, it sounds like they are talking about what it would be like to invade and conquer their land, exploit and bring home whatever is beneficial to our life, and evaluate if we could colonize to usurp permanently.
Maybe I have bad hearing.
Maybe I have nasty imagination.
Maybe I have a mean heart that cannot feel the good in others.
But maybe we need to know that our actions, even if out of genuine intrigue and meaning no harm, could appear intrusive and threatening to the object of our intrigue.
I am not saying that we should refrain ourselves from wanting to know the world out there. I think it is very important to want to know the other side. But when we act on our thoughts, we need to be aware that we do not all think alike and some of our action, even with the best of intention, could be taken as offense by our counterpart. Have we not learned this already being on this planet of our own?
Our history tells us that, very often, travel and exploration to one is invasion and conquest to another, even if not intended. But it seems we often forget that “we” are just as much unknown to them as “they” are to us, and the unknown can be just as frightening as it is fascinating. And if history on our measly planet can be extrapolated to the entire universe, one misunderstood action by us and we could be seeing an outbreak of intergalactic war… and how are we going to defend ourselves if we cannot communicate and coordinate with one another?
As I make this post on March 22, 2017, we have been threatened yet again by the incomprehensible action of our North neighbour, and we are frightened by the unpredictable reaction our other neighbour across the ocean might take. We are a measly land caught in between these two sides, without much power of our own to keep ourselves safe. But maybe our standpoint gives us a unique view of both sides – then, maybe we are in the best position to communicate that we are all living in the same world together, and no one needs to feel alone.
Let us see if we can rid ourselves of fear and be fascinated by the complex conundrum of this unknown, so we can all become “us” before we go look for “them.”