Monday, February 27, 2006

Manifold Space

Buddhism can serve as a daily living tool to enforce a positive outlook in spite of the obstacles one may face. Often, New Age beliefs also admonish well-being along the lines of positive psychology. Part of that attitude is the idea of life as a “force.” This point of view, I think, presents life as the main purpose of the universe.

But not everyone agrees. I was surprised, for example, when the English (U.S.) version of the documentary March of the Penguins, presented nature, not as a life-source, but as its mean destroyer. Nature, indicated the English version, will do everything to destroy the penguins as soon as they are born, and further in life, every step of the way. I was somewhat surprised to find similar feelings in Stephen Baxter‘s science fiction novel Space. I had previously read Titan. Violence and primordial desolation are found there, but also hope, because in the end Life springs forth from it. However, I found Space less hopeful.

There’s a scene where Extraterrestrials tell a main character how a gamma ray burst, a “random accident,” had “wiped clean the worlds for light years around,” an event that had “cared nothing for culture and ambition, hope and love and dreams.” (p. 210) Yet, speaking in Buddhist-like terms, Space finds “benefit,” describing how life did surge again from death. (p. 211) But not exactly, for nature’s blind cruelty still reigns.

Another interesting theme in Space is Baxter’s attempt to explore consciousness (a theme that he continues to study in the third volume, Origins), for the Extraterrestrials that humans first meet are silent observers whose consciousness, it seemed to me, are perhaps not too distant from the realm of non-existence.

I also found interesting that in Space the Extraterrestrials prefer Latin above all other languages for its logic. And eventually humans, having continued to develope totally different languages and dialects, do go back to it as their Solar-wide lingua franca. It seems to me that Esperanto would have made a better choice, even though I also like Latin.

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