27 February 2021 ~ 2 Comentarios

The meaning of life

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

Dedicated to Gustavo Coronel

In 1950 Ray Bradbury published his Martian Chronicles. It was a book of stories that the author put together into a kind of novel about the colonization of Mars. It was a concession to finances. Short stories didn’t sell, but novels did. Most likely, it was read by Wernher von Braun, a German who was comfortably exiled in America, a great expert in rocketry, as the British and the Dutch painfully knew. Von Braun and 1,500 other scholars and technicians had been rescued from Germany by the US intelligence services at the end of World War II, in an operation that had the innocent name of “Paperclip,” organized by Allen Dulles. The Soviets were on their heels.

In 1952 Von Braun, a former SS officer in the German army and former head of the rocketry department, sent a very detailed project to Harry Truman, then “his” president, on what the colonization of Mars should look like. He would manufacture huge rockets capable of carrying an expedition of 10 spacecraft that could carry 700 people on board, plus three passenger planes that would serve to land on the red planet. By the way, in the Bradbury story, Mars was inhabited by Martians prone to getting sick from the viruses that infected the expeditions members, as had happened in different episodes of colonization on Earth. At that time it was thought that in the thousands of planets similar to Earth there would be life like the one that exists in our small world. Today we have a different vision.

This story is based on several absolutely earthly chronicles. That of Gustavo Coronel, an excellent Venezuelan writer, published on his blog Las armas del Coronel (The Colonel’s Weapons) also titled “The meaning of life,” and the vicissitudes of “Perseverance,” the vehicle that is nowadays exploring Mars’ surface in search of some form of present or past life, and, in addition, it evaluates if it is a place that can be colonized, since, apparently, it contains liquid water, a requirement (for now) essential for the adventure of living.

In the fifties, when I was a teenager, I had irretrievably lost faith in Christianity, as I tell in my memoirs Sin ir más lejos (Without Going any Further,) but I hadn’t lost the desire to look for a meaning to my life. I remember I looked for an answer in Unamuno (The Tragic Meaning of Life), but I was unsuccessful. Don Miguel only contributed doubts and philosophical cries. I continued with Víktor Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning), but I didn’t find anything that would restore my faith. I only found some coherence in The Human Phenomenon, by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit and paleontologist who studied evolution and concluded that one day we will all coincide on the Omega Point. From that stage of universal conscience, the man of faith appears and the author proposes the second coming of Christ, and so on, with which, at least for me, it ceased to be interesting.

And what if the meaning of life is in the slow colonization of outer space? In 1957 human beings managed to escape the Earth’s pull for the first time. The cylindrical object launched by the Soviets was called Sputnik. In 1969, American astronaut Neil Armstrong, aboard Apollo 11, put his foot on the moon for the first time, 300,000 kilometers from Earth. Today we are seeing the sharp images of Mars, no less than 55 million kilometers away, thanks to the cameras installed in “Perseverance.”

At this point I always tell the story of my grandmother María Altagracia, a Dominican (of course, what else could she have been with that middle name?), “Maricusa” for her family and friends, a cultured reader of Spencer. Her childhood was spent on horseback in the late 19th century. But, as she lived almost a hundred years, she could see, in amazement, “the Americans” walking on the Moon. A century is nothing for scientific feats or for sidereal time. The Sun will continue to give Earth light and heat for several more billion years, until it goes out as a result of the principle or law of entropy.

Of course, we can conquer and colonize Mars, and even escape from the solar system and even from our galaxy. It doesn’t matter if there is only life on Earth. It would be better. Our mission is to take it to the ends of the Universe. Perhaps that is the meaning of our life.

2 Responses to “The meaning of life”

  1. joseluis 1 March 2021 at 8:51 pm Permalink

    ¿Bueno… y Binde qué?
    Está haciendo las cosas también que la prensa…silencio total.

  2. Orlando 4 March 2021 at 9:10 am Permalink

    Me parece que Joe Biden está actuando con mucho tino.
    Sus declaraciones no son malas. Creo que busca lo mismo que Donald Trump. MAGA.

    Make America Great Again pero sin exageraciones , guaperia ni histrionismos

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