Stars28 Jul 2014
I've heard it said widely (though I'm not particularly in the mood for concrete evidence) that the statistical likelyhood of a person suffering from depression at some point in their lives shares a positive correlation with their level of education.
Sometimes, when I know that I'm going to be alone, I like to sit outside in the very late evening. There's something about the darkness combined with an almost complete lack of any noise whatsoever that I find extremely relaxing, and there's nothing else quite like it for me. It just so happened that tonight was one of those nights.
As I lay outside on my back staring up at the stars (something of a rare sight with all the light pollution and clouds I'm normally treated to), I began to think about how everything around us is moving away from us faster and faster as space itself continues to expand. I wondered if perhaps one day, there wouldn't be any stars left in the night sky for us to see.
I'm not a religious person, in fact it kind of makes me a little sad to think that there's no reason at all for us as a species to be here; that it all happened because... well, it just did. The fact that there was a precise chain of events that lead us to this point is completely irrelevant - none of it had to happen. Everything that happened did so because the conditions just so happened to be right.
I thought about what we're actually doing to this entirely unique little blue speck we call home and the people we share it with. In the name of progress, in the name of keeping people safe, in the name of our economy[^1] or in the name of religion[^2]. I thought about how if we'd managed to properly colonise space already then all of this would seem so completely petty and insignificant.
People seem so content to just keep on fighting the wars of their ancestors, to keep on sucking the very life out of the one place we have to call home in the endless pursuit of profit and control that will - exactly as Monopoly has taught all of us at some point - all go back in the box in another 60 years or so. The thing is that when we die, what we leave behind for our children and the rest of the world to fight over is less than what we started with. Eventually there'll be nothing left worth fighting over.
The last thing that popped into my mind before I grabbed my laptop to write this post was a specific line in Isaac Asimov's 1956 short story The Last Question. If you've not read it yet, I would strongly advise you to do so because it'll really make you think about just what it is humanity is doing with its one and only existence.
"Entropy, little sweet, is just a word which means the amount of running-down of the universe. Everything runs down, you know, like your little walkie-talkie robot, remember?"
"Can't you just put in a new power-unit, like with my robot?"
"The stars are the power-units, dear. Once they're gone, there are no more power-units."
Jerrodette I at once set up a howl. "Don't let them, Daddy. Don't let the stars run down."
"Now look what you've done." whispered Jerrodine, exasperated.
"How was I to know it would frighten them?" Jerrodd whispered back.
"Ask the Microvac," wailed Jerrodette I. "Ask him how to turn the stars on again."
"Go ahead," said Jerrodine. "It will quiet them down." (Jerrodette II was beginning to cry, also.)
Jarrodd shrugged. "Now, now, honeys. I'll ask Microvac. Don't worry, he'll tell us."
He asked the Microvac, adding quickly, "Print the answer."
Jerrodd cupped the strip of thin cellufilm and said cheerfully, "See now, the Microvac says it will take care of everything when the time comes so don't worry."
Jerrodine said, "Now children, it's time for bed. We'll be in our new home soon."
Jerrodd read the words on the cellufilm again before destroying it:
INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER.[^3]
Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate the way the stars look for a while; they're giant flaming balls of gas and matter in space, and I can see them. I think it's amazing that we're here by the sheer force of statistical anomaly (or certainty depending on how you look at it.) I think myself incredibly lucky that I have the opportunity to be alive and think about these things. It's just a shame that I usually regret thinking about them for too long.
[^1]: For which no American ever went to prison. Unlike Iceland, where they let the banks fail and threw people in jail and now the economy there is booming. [^2]: See: every industrialised nation on the planet, the war on terror, the global financial crisis and Gaza; respectively. [^3]: This excerpt very slightly edited. Sorry Isaac. I couldn't pick my favourite bit of the story, so you get this one.