"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

per aspera ad astra

i decided today that if i ever get a tattoo i'd want it to be of the phrase per aspera ad astra - a Latin phrase meaning "from hardships to the stars." there are so many beautiful reasons i would want this on my body, that i'm tempted to rescind my prejudice that tattoos are tacky and have it inked into my inner arm.

first, i'd like to think that when i die, i'll be borne into the stars. and the idea of my body bearing this phrase, this philosophy, through life until death is exactly what i want my tattoo to be, a comment on im/permanence.

furthermore, this phrase was one of a few audio messages selected to be cast off into space aboard the Voyager, to represent peaceful intentions from humanity. this message was encoded into morse code and recorded on the Voyager Golden Record, along with samples of music, greetings in 55 different languages, animal and nature sounds, and a meditative message from Carl Sagan's wife.

i've never been terribly interested in astronomy nor fascinated with the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrial life. and yet, i find myself regretting the lack of this kind of fantasy and curiosity in our modern collective imagination. it seems my generation was the last to experience the height of the american space program, and current youth are perhaps untouched by the influence of these ideas and the accompanying sense of infinite exploration, as well as unquantifiable humility in the impossibility of ever being certain in the great big galactic scope of things.

i think that humility, that unknowingness, accompanies a healthy sense of imagination that in turn keeps people from being too ... material in their living. what i feel like we have now is lots of kids growing up and becoming bankers and not enough dreaming of being astronauts.

today's Voyager research (i got lost in a research loop on wikipedia today that started with me trying to sort out my tracklisting for the Dark Was The Night compilation, which led me to read about Blind Willie Johnson and his wailing gospel-blues slide guitar and how it was included as an example of loneliness on the Voyager record to be, potentially, discovered by future extraterrestrial lifeforms) also led me to consider the absurd task of writing and communicating messages to infinite space. in the Voyager capsule, Carl Sagan et al. included a letter from then-president Jimmy Carter:
We cast this message into the cosmos... Of the 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, some — perhaps many — may have inhabited planets and space faring civilizations. If one such civilization intercepts Voyager and can understand these recorded contents, here is our message: We are trying to survive our time so we may live into yours. We hope some day, having solved the problems we face, to join a community of Galactic Civilizations. This record represents our hope and our determination and our goodwill in a vast and awesome universe.
i think it's somewhat indicative of the zeitgeist of the 1970s that our president took time out of his schedule to write a letter to the cosmos. imagine what that conversation must have been like, "uh, hey jimmy, we want you to write a letter to the future. to be read by aliens. state our intent as a galaxy. btw, humanity may be completely gone by the time this is picked up by anyone. kthxbye." but that's what i'm talking about, you know? we're missing a little galactic humility and imagination in our present-day thinking.

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