People choose to believe some very odd things and then go to great lengths to prove to themselves the truth of their need to believe them. All the better if there is a glamorous “supernatural” slant involved or a dream of wish-fulfillment.There is a need to enjoy a little of that kind of colourful theatre in their lives. For them it colours their daily grind and enhances the supposed ordinariness of existence. Of course there is nothing very ordinary about “existence” ,in any case. It might be the most unique “state of being “in this universe or any other beyond us. This might be the only, very single moment, in a focused point of time when a carbon -constructed creature of any sort or composition, such as ourselves, was able to drag itself up from some primordial ooze and actually think and understand that it actually “existed” at all…. and that these lives we live ,with all their thoughts, emotions, politics and struggle, might well be a momentary aberrant blip in an otherwise lifeless cosmos. All of it, just one wee oddity that might not last too long and this moment might disappear in a blink to be gone forever….and there may be nothing of it to be recorded except for a handful of dead rockets and space-ware complete with installed proclamations of our human civilisation ,hurtling through the far reaches of outer space….brimming with language, birdsong, the tunes of Chuck Berry in his 1950’s pomp and a golden hieroglyphic describing how we humans mate and which part of the cosmos we currently inhabit.
Some forty years ago in September 1977, most people could not have conceived how technology would alter almost every aspect of how we live now in the twenty first century. The way I remember it,spacecraft operated back then on something less than the computing power of the modern cell-phone we all carry in our pockets. Of course , such phones would have been science -fiction in any case, appearing possibly in episodes of “Star Trek” or the comics.They existed only in the world of the imagination. When the two Voyager space -crafts launched , they didn’t carry a modern ,multi- terrabyte stick , chock -full of hours of information videos about earth , to better educate some extra-terrestrial aliens who might, it was imagined, some thousands of years hence, possess a computer with a viable USB port to engage it with.What it did contain was a “phonograph record”. much like an old Bob Dylan or a Beatles vinyl album.This contained “the Sounds of the Earth” , albeit, cast in copper grooves instead of vinyl, covered in a golden carapace to protect it from any micro-meteorites which might shear holes through it as it hurtled through space.I can only assume that each side of the disc ran for something like twenty minutes at a speed of 33 and a third revolutions. That’s what records were loke back then. The thought obviosly was that these future aliens might possess a “Dansette” record player …or at a stretch , possibly be in the position to construct a Hi Fi complete with Wharfdale or Mission speakers and a viable turntable and stylus to spin that golden disc on….. is inspiring…. I suppose it is possible if they were capable of a sort of reverse-technology based on the disc itself..If that was the case some 3000 years hence, then they’ll have an idea of how things were on earth back in the 1970’s…..If our ancestors are all still here.
We have no idea how an imaginary alien brain might operate but this is how our human brain operates. I always thought that it might ultimately be like giving an album of Debussy or Tim Buckley music to a dolphin and asking the creature to play it on his juke box. It doesn’t make a lot of sense in that respect . It’s a bit like dreaming about “horseless carriages” while living in the fifteenth century.The idea might seem inconceivable and impossible.Then again ,some really preposterous ideas can take root.One such notion is the human desire to somehow live -forever…to be uncorrupted by the natural order of everything else we see around us in the universe and somehow stop the evidence of time’s passing. The notion of cheating death somehow. If not here..then on Mars or in heaven of some sort.
People enjoy the idea of alien cultures like they might enjoy the idea of of heroes or saints and sainthood, for example.That idea that the ordinary person might become something other than ordinarily prosaic and may be one of a special ,chosen few , gifted with a special place in human affairs.Someone who might possibly even live forever. I suspect it is why we have heroes and idols in all kinds of spheres. We have kings , queens,politicians, film stars , sports stars, music stars and artists and novelists whom we revere. Sometimes some of these are “knighted ” or sanctified by kings, queens, politicians or churches. A raising above from the hoi-polloi…a bestowing of medals. Possibly a need to immortalise….to become historical figures of our imaginations.
One such curiousity associated with this is the idea of keeping dead bodies on public display. Depending on your point of view you might think of this as a ghastly, barbaric practice on the same level as idol -worship…and a little bit creepily necromantic too…. or you might believe it is a wonderful thing to do, in the sense of revering the dead.For example , they have Lenin , the Great leader of the Russian Revolution ,lying in state in a temperature -controlled room these past ninety -odd years since January 21, 1924. He looks to be in good physical shape, having died as a man in his fifties after several strokes. He’s embalmed , of course and there’s probably been much wax re-work done to maintain the facade for devotees and the passing tourist trade..
Something similar has happened with the likes of the Church saints, Bernadette and Padre Pio. These two individuals have both become part of the Church’s modern Christian mysticism and in Bernadette’s case she has been declared “Incorruptible”.That could mean a purity of spirit but there was much talk of the body’s meat-and-bone incorruptability too , especially in the case of Bernadette .What is now displayed for the public’s gaze in the Chapel of Saint Gidard at the Sisters of Charity in Nevers in France, is more the art of the mortician than the reality of real-world temporal violation.In Bernadette’s case , although much was talked of the preservation of the flesh after being dead some 130 years , in fact as soon as the air met her dead flesh on the original opening of her coffin it began its work and much of what is now seen is restored from sculpted wax in much the same way as Gerry Adams’ double is now displayed in National Wax Museum in Dublin. Bernadette’s hands and face have been totally re-built for public consumption.
None of that really matters ,of course ,because besides preserving the body, it also preserves the supernatural story we enjoy telling ourselvesand it disguises our fear of death and the need to maintain a pretence of life..It’s the real reason why we have a need to explore space and extend our presence beyond the earth to Mars and the furthest stars.