Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Terraforming, or Transforming

I’ve read a lot in the past few years about terraforming Mars, terraforming Venus. I’ve even been reading about how we might one day have to terraform Earth back to where it was before we started messing with it too much. The ideas are out there; the strategies are in place, although we still lack the technical skills and the tools at the moment. Judging from the past couple of hundred years of human scientific progress, those skills and those tools will be here soon.

I’m glad the human imagination is capable of such concepts. I’m glad we can dream of newer worlds, maybe even better worlds. I’m glad that, at every age of our existence as a species, we have had the intelligence and daring to reach for those things just outside our grasp.

But--you knew there had to be a but--as events of yesterday, April 15th, have reminded us, our biggest challenge as a species does not come from without. It comes from within. The Boston Marathon bombing is only the latest in a series of horrors we have faced recently. I won’t list others because I know you can list them as well as I.

Let’s be clear, except for the technology used for the April 15th bombings, the callousness and brutality of the act are nothing new to “humanity.”  That’s exactly the problem. While we have gone on for centuries uncovering greater knowledge of the universe and inventing new wonders of technology, we seem not to have changed our minds one bit. Far too many of us are still nasty, brutish, vicious creatures full of hate, jealousy and violence. Far too many want only to hurt, not to heal—want only to see the tears and blood of the innocent rather than the smiles of the joyful.

Don’t believe for a moment that I’m above the basest of feelings myself. Yesterday, my mind seethed with rage. I imagined a hundred scenarios in which the perpetrators of this atrocity were identified and caught…and turned over to me. I imagined the horrors I would inflict upon them. And I felt no guilt whatsoever. Any possible consideration that these murderers might claim justification for what they did could not sway me. They attacked the innocent! They attacked those who have done nothing to them whatsoever. There is no clearer description of evil.

Today, my rage is banked, but it is still there. Today I am just barely starting to think again rather than just feel. I still scream inside for justice for the dead and the maimed. But now another thought intrudes. Somehow, some way, some when, we must find a way to terraform ourselves. Before it is too late.
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41 comments:

Paul R. McNamee said...

Amen.

I, too, have plenty of rage.

Today, though, I've found enough other emotions that reading the various reports of injuries and those who helped are making my eyes well.

Randy Johnson said...

I felt the same way yesterday. I do every time something like that occurs whether it be our country or not. The world is full of innocents that some "monsters" feel the need to kill to make their statement.

Rachel V. Olivier said...

Terraforming our selves. Yes. We need to do that.

Charles Gramlich said...

Paul, no short supply of rage. But yes, the other emotions as well. I'm trying to not look at too many photos. The tears are very close as is.

Randy, yes, wherever such attacks happen I feel so angered and yet helpless.

Rachel, let's hope.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Terraform the sinful nature of man?
Frightening what the mind of man can conceive and the evils of what is done with that.

Victorian Barbarian said...

Charles, For years I found myself raging at things like this (or even at trivial things, like almost being creamed by a car with the driver's cellphone glued to his ear). I found myself building up the revenge or retribution scenarios when some stupid politician says something stupid or callous or downright destructive. And I found myself asking, "What are you going to do about it?" and the answer came, "None of the those things will do any good to change or prevent the situation." So I didn't do them and let the upset and adrenalin ebb away. Not very satisfying.
But eventually I realized that what I ought to be doing was to lower the temperature generally. Rage wasn't doing anything except make me feel good by feeling bad. I saw a picture on FB today of an eight-year-old holding a sign about peace and "no more hurting people." (It was the little boy who was killed yesterday in Boston.) Your comments about terraforming ourselves seem to me right on the mark. I can't do anything about those people in Boston, or Afghanistan, or the Sudan, but I can try to stop the global warming in my own microclimate. And if enough microclimates change, maybe they'll add up.

Aimless Writer said...

Well said. I wonder about the reasons behind this heinous act and find no answers.
Are the chemicals in our food to blame? Air pollution? Bad parenting?
Still it was a choice.
Some freak chose to take a path of destruction when they could have used their powers for good.
why.....

Cloudia said...

Excellent musings, Charles.
Actually I think extraterrestrial artists created Grand Canyon and other big installations perhaps before we got here!:-)


Aloha,Bro

Charles Gramlich said...

Alex, and the joy some take in it.

Victorian Barbarian, you are absolutely correct and I have gotten better at controlling my rage, and at applying my small attempts to correct the flow of forces. It is hard though, and at times I still despair.

Aimless Writer, in our genes I'm afraid.

Cloudia, that would be kinda cool.

Sidney said...

The sadness seeps in more and more for me as the insidious, savage and at the same time cowardly nature of the attack plays through my mind. How terrible to take so much from people participating in a peaceful, beautiful event that celebrates the best in us. The attackers are the worst, they represent the worst, but they are not the example, they are not the ones who represent who we are.



Ty Johnston said...

For perhaps the first time in my life when something tragic like this happens on a national scale, I did not feel rage. But I'm finding my feelings about a lot of things are different of late.

As for the technology used yesterday, I'm not so sure it's all that modern. Not confirmed yet, but I did hear on the radio that anonymous federal sources said the bombs were pretty simple black powder explosives.

As for humanity and technology, I'm not convinced modern communications technology is all it's supposedly cracked up to be, not that the technology itself is the problem.

Charles, you're the psychologist. In your opinion, have the mental functions and behaviors of humanity changed much in the last 3,000 years? Perhaps further back? To me it seems we've come into the modern technological era with what is still basically an Iron Age mentality, which is not a good mix.

Tom Doolan said...

One of the main differences between a good person and an evil person is not whether they have thoughts of rage and violence. It's in whether they act on them.

I believe that, at his core, man is still a wild beast, motivated by emotion and instinct. It's only our higher brain functions that allow us to restrain that inner animal. Some people seem to let those functions slip a bit too much.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sidney, I hope so, I believe so, though sometimes I doubt.

Ty, I don't think the human cognitive and emotional structures have changed in probably 10,000 years. We are still very tribal, which was in place for 50 to 100,000 years before the dawn of agriculture.

Tom, some it seem, use their intellect only in the service of their most base instincts.

The Golden Eagle said...

Agreed. But I'm sure it will be the hardest hurdle of all of them.

Deka Black said...

First of all, my condolences to all the affected for the boston bombing.

Second... as a Spain citizen, sadly i'm not unfamiliar with this kind of thing. not many years ago we still had a very dangerous terrorist organization here doing that same thing (and the danger is still present, sadly). What i mean is that i relly understand how some people can feel about this happening.

And third: I think is a matter of... well. as Charles said, tribalism (my sister would say "moronism). But also of a really, really really serious lack of empathy. I think. And that's the worst.

in any case, as i said in the upper lines, my condolences are with tjhe affected.

David Cranmer said...

"nasty, brutish, vicious creatures." Yep. That's humanity. Sadly.

Charles Gramlich said...

Golden Eagle, absolutely.

Deka, I remember some of the bombings in Spain and how awful they were. Everyone gets touched by this kind of horror.

David Cranmer, and very sad that it's true.

Travis Cody said...

Terraform ourselves. Indeed.

Well said Sir.

Riot Kitty said...

Your last sentence just resonated so much with me.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Such things have always occurred, yes, but the ability to attack such large groups is new. I can't help but blame a lot of this on the failure of our society to deal with mental health issues. Until they take such things seriously, this will continue I am afraid.

Charles Gramlich said...

Travis Cody, I have hope. :)

Riot Kitty, thanks. It was heartfelt.

Patti, and that problem is getting worse, the ignoring of mental health issues. They're closing all kinds of mental health facilities here.

laughingwolf said...

agreed...

one terrorism specialist speculates since no foreign group has claimed responsibility, the perp[s] is/are likely 'home grown', ie. activated sleeper cells, or u.s. born, and a far cry from 'amateur' :(

Ron Scheer said...

Well said, Charles. I tend to believe that within any system there is a self-destruct mechanism. No matter how well devised it was at the start, it will eventually collapse under some unforeseen contingency. The fault, as you say, is in the human heart, which seems always at the tipping point between good and evil.

Charles Gramlich said...

Laughingwolf, my own suspicions are domestic but who knows for sure.

Ron, and for some the tipping point in the wrong direction is easy to get to.

sage said...

The human race hasn't moved far... I remember reading in college B. F. Skinner who had the insight to suggest that with all our science discovery, we're still reading Aristotle for ethics (or something like that). He's right, but we still haven't "gotten it" yet.

Erik Donald France said...

Right on, Charles. 100% agreed.

I wonder that if we terraform Earth, if it would be like a complete reboot, or a reformatting, wiping humans clean off the planet? Something Kurt Vonnegut imagined before he died. But then, he survived the Anglo-American firebombing of Dresden as an American POW -- talk about a complicated moral reality. Unlike him, though, I'm a little more optimistic. For no apparent reason.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I agree, well said and well written, Charles. This morning I read a quote by some Indian on the internet praying for a gap of 10 years between one terrorist attack and another in our country. We have marvelled at how America has prevented a terror attack since 9/11. On average, we have one every six to eight months, the last one being yesterday in the IT hub of Bangalore.

the walking man said...

I have nothing to say that would be useful.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sage, absolutely, and that shows us how strong our biology is in affecting our behavior. That doesn't mean it has to be that way, though.

Erik, the thing is, humans have such potential, for both transcendence and debasement. Which way it's going to go is pretty hard to predict.

Prashant, yes, it is ridiculous how often these things are happening around the world and the US is sometimes complacent in understanding that. I wish our news would do a better job of covering these kinds of things worldwide as well.

Mark, not a lot to be said, I guess.

ivan said...

Dear lord.

They are looking for identifiable perpetrators, while it really does come from within.

Mammoth distraction in Boston.

...Senate okays bill to help invade Iran.

Jesu Cristo!

eric1313 said...

Hell yeah, Charles.

Humanity's many depths are so varied. Love occupies some, interest, curiosity... nobility, sacrifice, a desire to help others can exist. And then all the negatives too reside there at times, within many. Horror, hell.

Glad you expressed your rage and can begin to pack it away in favor of moving on.


In the interests of Terraforming, Let's set up a sling at Europa and fling giant ice chunks toward Mars, aiming as careful as possible at the Hellas Basin. Make sure to own that land near the rim.

Easy, right? heheh... Or a system of mirrors to reflect and concentrate solar energy onto cold ice-locked worlds.

Heck, the opposite of that could be used on Venus, a massive sun shade that could be slowly maneuvered as needed to regulate the planet. If we could do that, surely we could detoxify the planet after its boiling atmosphere settles down.

The more I think about it, these fanciful flights and dreams of hope for humanity amid the cosmos might be easier that terraforming the souls of those steeped in hatred and violence, envy and lies clung to as truth.

But we can still dream, can't we? And though some may scoff at dreams, they do have a way of coming true, from time to time. Usually after the dreamer has departed this existence, but still, it can happen.

Great post, man. I'm still here, imagining and writing of better worlds than the one I see on TV and the 'net.

eric1313 said...

Glad to see I'm in good company down here toward the bottom of the comments.

Charles Gramlich said...

Ivan, when in doubt, lets kills somebody. Seems to be the way.

eric1313, technology is always an easy feat compared to changing humanity. we are pretty resistant to that. And always in good company, of course

Barbara Martin said...

Somewhere in the perpetrators' lives they lost the ability to be responsible for their actions. It begins in childhood with a desire to act out against authority. Unchecked it grows until when it is stopped, ends in further tragedy.

But well said, Charles.

G. B. Miller said...

My mind keeps going back to the title of a Metallica album in regards to what I want to do to these particular sub-species.

Fortunately, others have beaten me to the punch with at least one of them.

Charles Gramlich said...

Barbara, for sure they lost it, or never had it. But the result is someone who can't live in our society.

G.B., Kill 'em all! :)

Oscar said...

The brainwashing and indoctrination that takes place before an event like this is the problem. Kill the bastards!!

nyar said...

I felt the same way after 911. For 24 hours I wanted to turn the entire middle east into a radioactive crater and put the survivors into camps for 'reeducation' and/or 'proper disposal'. Then my humanity returned and I realized how much of this was a sad product of human greed, hate, and vengeance that has been with us since the beginning. There is plenty of spiritual blood on everyone's hands. I wrote a story where the protagonist views the grave of his father killed on 911 and says the following.
"There are so many here...from that day. To some they're heroes. Others say the ones who killed them are heroes. Everywhere more heroes are dyin', killin'. Back when I was little I'd pretend I was a hero, killin' monsters. Dad told me a real hero looks for other ways. I'm tryin' Dad. We're all tryin'. Tryin' a new way. Better I hope."

May we all find that new way.

nyar said...

I felt the same way after 911. For 24 hours I wanted to turn the entire middle east into a radioactive crater and put the survivors into camps for 'reeducation' and/or 'proper disposal'. Then my humanity returned and I realized how much of this was a sad product of human greed, hate, and vengeance that has been with us since the beginning. There is plenty of spiritual blood on everyone's hands. I wrote a story where the protagonist views the grave of his father killed on 911 and says the following.
"There are so many here...from that day. To some they're heroes. Others say the ones who killed them are heroes. Everywhere more heroes are dyin', killin'. Back when I was little I'd pretend I was a hero, killin' monsters. Dad told me a real hero looks for other ways. I'm tryin' Dad. We're all tryin'. Tryin' a new way. Better I hope."

May we all find that new way.

nyar said...

I felt the same way after 911. For 24 hours I wanted to turn the entire middle east into a radioactive crater and put the survivors into camps for 'reeducation' and/or 'proper disposal'. Then my humanity returned and I realized how much of this was a sad product of human greed, hate, and vengeance that has been with us since the beginning. There is plenty of spiritual blood on everyone's hands. I wrote a story where the protagonist views the grave of his father killed on 911 and says the following.
"There are so many here...from that day. To some they're heroes. Others say the ones who killed them are heroes. Everywhere more heroes are dyin', killin'. Back when I was little I'd pretend I was a hero, killin' monsters. Dad told me a real hero looks for other ways. I'm tryin' Dad. We're all tryin'. Tryin' a new way. Better I hope."

May we all find that new way.

Charles Gramlich said...

Oscar, it's a shame people are so susceptible to brainwashing. It seems so many have very little resistance to it.

nyar, I hope we'll find it. We need it desparetely. We have to find it or we won't survive. Thanks for visiting.