Between the Apes and the Angels [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Max H. Flindt
eBook Category: Technology/Science
eBook Description: "There is no doubt that we are both ape and angel. The question is, what constitutes the angel? Could it have been extraterrestrial? In these pages you will find proof that you are partially extraterrestrial."--Max H. Flindt. "I go to drink from the Big Dipper. And the stuff I drink is life. Come with me." --Ray Bradbury [Foreword by Ray Bradbury.]
eBook Publisher: The Fiction Works, Published: http://www.fictionworks.com, 2004
Fictionwise Release Date: July 2004
Foreword by Ray Bradbury
3 Reader Ratings:
"I know of no work since Darwin that deserves as much attention with regard to the evolution of man." --Erich VonDaniken on Max Flindt's Mankind, Child of the Stars
FROM STONEHENGE TO TRANQUILLITY BASE
Sometimes mankind reminds me of a creature that has taken a billion years to climb a one-mile-high cliff. And here he is, putting his arm up over the edge and almost making it. Then at the last moment, he leaps up, tromps upon his own fingers--and plunges screaming back into the abyss. If you think I'm speechifying about ecology, you're wrong. Nor am I talking about cities, civil rights, or any of the other cliché causes of our time. I'm talking about space travel. I speak of rocket ships, landing on the moon, traveling to Mars, making the grand tour heading for Betelgeuse. But our space program is in the process of being junked. Men are in the saddle, riding the machine back into the swamp, there to drown and die.
Sometimes, late at night, I feel my lips moving in my sleep. I awake to hear the last syllables of some old truths repeated and repeated, because, even in slumber, I feel no one is listening. So here are the words again, in the hope that someone truly understands:
Space travel is the single most important thing that man has ever done in his long history. The landing of Apollo 11 on the moon on July 20, 1969, is the single most important event in our three billion years of evolution--commensurate, if you please, with the birth/death/rebirth of Christ. If this seems blasphemous, read on. I came not to bury faith but to resurrect it.
My problem is: How do I make this old problem sound new? By saying: Stand tall. Travel far. Live long. Be immortal. By saying: Apollo 11. Apollo 12. Apollo 16. And: Stonehenge. Tranquillity Base. Try these last on your tongue. Say them aloud.
Why? Because the shadow of winter ape men on England's ancient moors has reached up to fit an astronaut's shoes and stir the strange dust of the moon. The history of all mankind is in such shadows and such dust. The time span we speak of began three billion years before this morning and will not end ten billion years beyond tonight. But, in mid-stride hamstrung, we have shot down Apollo. The barbarian bowling teams of history have won the day. And the monkeys, gibbering from the jungle's rim, close in to take over. The rest may well be silence.
I am reminded of a terrifying scene in Things To Come, that fabulous picture made by H.G. Wells back in 1936, when I was in high school. I saw the film only 12 times the first year it was out, but I recall Sir Cedric Hardwicke heading his mob of intellectuals of both left and right, fisting the air at man's first rocket to the moon, poised on the launching pad, and crying out: "Cease! Desist! Turn back!" What was once film footage has now become reality. The intellectuals of the world, in fully cry, are out to dismantle the spaceships and bury them back in Stonehenge.
It has been a lonely business, mine, to speak for space travel the past 35 years. I felt little or no company when I was 17, in my last year at high school, writing my first stories about landing on the moon. I don't feel much more company surrounding me today. In fact, I feel lonelier, for we have indeed made it to Tranquillity Base and come home--to untranquil times. But, lonely or not, I must go on speaking my piece.
How often in the past years have we heard: Why spend all that money on the moon when we need it for jobs for people here on earth? This is dimwit, ten-watt-bulb thinking. It's like saying: Let's unemploy people in order to employ them. Let's fire people in order to hire them. But fire from what to hire for what?
The fact is, of course, that not a single penny has been spent on the moon. Not a mill. Not a whisper of a sliver of a dollar. Everything has been spent in Poughpeepsie and Muskegon and Houston and El Monte and East Tuskegee and West Waukegan. The money has been spent on black people and white people. And the money has bought jobs, jobs, jobs. All of the money for Apollo flooded earth and hired and enriched hundreds of thousands of people--who now, gunshot, walking wounded, rank as unemployeds.
Wouldn't it make more sense to unemploy the millions involved with the illogic of Vietnam? Where is the real money we can grab and use for cities, civil rights, ecology? It jingles in the pockets of the military. It clinks in the vest of black marketers in Saigon. It nestles in Swiss banks, seeded there by our friends the South Vietnamese. Where are our priorities. It follows that we must do everything at one. Man must save himself simultaneously on two levels. He must survive in the infectious dust of earth that he has stomped into clouds of smog about his head. But he must also survive--live forever--upon the moon, upon Mars, eventually, in hibernation along the way, awakening in a new Garden, never to be driven forth again, saved forever, on some planet circumnavigating a new sun so far away we cannot count the miles.
Toynbee speaks of the challenge and response of various tribes, nations and racial groups in the long history of man. Those who refuse the challenge, who will not respond, become the detritus of history. In our time, it almost seems that every day brings forth a newer, greater, more doom-ridden challenge. We are Moses on the mountain with the Ten Commandments suddenly revealed--but weighing ten billion tons in our affrighted hands. we would like to drop the whole burden, retire to the lunatic farm and babble out our restful days. Yet the universe will not accept lunacy, save to tread upon it, grind it under and go on to other yeasting experiments.
Bernard Shaw describes creative evolution as matter and force making itself over into intelligence and sprint. The universe is full of matter and force. Yet in all the force, among all the bulks and gravities, the rains of cosmic light, the bombardments of energy, among all that, how little spirit, how small the sum of intelligence. We are the spirit. We are that intelligence. Dumb, sometimes, yes. Awful, quite often. Dreadful apish brutes, on occasion following occasion.
And yet I would not see our candle blown out in the wind. It is a small thing, this dear gift of life handed us mysteriously out of immensity. I would not have that gift expire. Crossing the wilderness, centuries ago, men carried in covered cows' horns the coals of the previous night's fires to start new fires on the nights ahead. Thus we carry ourselves in the universal wilderness and blow upon the coals and kindle new lives and move on yet again.
So neither Shaw nor I, if you will excuse me for trotting in his shadow, is here to celebrate the defeat of man by matter, but to proclaim his high destiny and urge him on to it.
And we, therefore, grand great good tall heroes deserving of fame and immortality? Hardly. We are poor beggars in the long night of the abyss, begging for crumbs on cold street corners where death is certain for one mistake. Are be beautiful, lovely, endearing, romantic wonders of mortality? No. We're Quasimodo, ten billion times squared, hunched of back, blind of eye, pitiful of stance, yet reaching to pull that rope and ring all the loud bells of the universe and listen to them--forever. And we shall do it.
The dream of mankind has been to someday kill death. We have written of it in our stories, novels, songs, poems. Dylan Thomas said: "And death shall have no dominion." John Donne concurs that "Death shall be no more: death, thou shalt die." We echo them and cry out to the Reaper that one day we will shatter his scythe and scatter its shards among the stars. In our time, the rocket arrives as shatterer of the scythe. The rocket fire promises to burn clean the graves of history and sweeten the winds of tomorrow with the good smell of man become everlasting seed to the universe.
It is surely apparent from all I have put down so far that I look upon space not as an experiment in paramilitary physics but as a religious enterprise. The proper study of mankind is man. The proper study of man is God. The proper study of God is space. All wheel about one another in concentric gravities. All are one.
In a drama of mine broadcast in London, I placed a priest in the midst of a spaceman's chapel the night before a journey to the interstellar deeps. He spoke about space, time and life triumphant:
Is God dead? And ancient topic now. But once our response might have been no, only sleeping until you dreadful bores shut up. A better question is: Are you dead? Does your blood move in your hand? Does your hand move to touch metal? Does that metal move to touch space? Do wild thoughts of travel and migration moved behind your flesh? They do. You live. Therefore, He lives.
You are the think skin of life upon an unsensing earth. You are that growing edge of God which manifests itself in hungers for space. So much of God lies vibrantly asleep. The very stuffs of worlds and galaxies, they know not themselves. Good reaches for the stars. You are His hand. Creation manifest, you go to find, He goes to find, Himself.
The rocket blasts off in thunder.
All the myths we have ever spoken, born of our guts and issued from our mouths, and written in our books and acted in our pageants are the sum total of Man/God. We stir in our own sleep. We would be. We could become. We would sum ourselves to more than we now are. If the universe is mindless, we have mind. If the universe knows not, we know. If the universe is empty, we will fill it.
In sum, it is not either/or but all. We cannot choose between. We must choose both: earth and space. If that seems difficult, why, all of life has always been difficult--but would we have it any other way, I wonder? There lies the terror--and the fun. There is the game of lose and win and lose and win again.
In Well's screenplay for Things To Come, Hardwicke raves at the head of his mob: "We don't want mankind to go out to the moon and the planets. We shall hate you more if you succeed than if you fail. Is there never to be calm and happiness for man?"
To which the captain of the ship radios his reply: "Either life goes forward or it goes back. Beware the concussion!"
The rocket fires.
In a vast telescope mirror, the fathers of the two astronauts watch the small fire of the rocket moving toward the moon, and one speaks: "My god, is there never to be an age of happiness? Is there never to be rest?"
To which the other answers: "Rest enough for the individual man. Too much of it and too soon, and we call it death. But for man, no rest and no ending. He must go on--conquest beyond conquest. This little planet, its winds and ways, and all the laws of mind and matter that restrain him. Then the planets about him, and at last out across immensity to the stars. And when he has conquered all the deeps of space and all the mysteries of time, still he will be beginning."
He points out at the universe.
"Is that it--or this. All the universe--or nothingness. Which shall it be?"
The two men fade. The stars remain. The music rises.
"Which shall it be?" his voice repeats.
It is ours to choose. If we choose wrongly, we stay on earth and bury ourselves forever at Stonehenge. If we choose aright, we turn our backs on the suffocation of the grave, the moldering of all our best and most beautiful plans, the death of infant man, and go to resurrect ourselves among the stars.
Then will death itself die? Yes. Yes to life. Yes to the universe. Yes to all and everything, forever.
When all else is saying no.
If all the wars were stopped tomorrow, and the blood ceased boiling, and the skies were cleared of their pollution, and uncivil strifes were put to rest, what then? Should we sit and wait for the sun to run down? For the earth to freeze in some Arctic blizzard, or burn in some solar fire, should the sun explode?
We must not wait to freeze or burn. The time of going away is upon us. We must pack and go. A few itinerant gypsies on the road, at first. And then, a vast journeying of souls. For it is certain that if we stay here we die, and all dies with us, and God's effort, in this part of the universe, will be for naught.
Challenge and response. Response and challenge. Toynbee's voice ghosts us down the years ahead what do I hand you now, traveler? A suitcase stuffed with spirits to last beyond Alpha Centauri? Or a shovel for your grave? Choose one. More or dig.
As for me, I move. I go to drink from the Big Dipper. And the stuff I drink is life. Come with me.