Friday, March 18, 2011

Four Scouts to the New World/ Parts 5 and 6

By Brian George

Note: “Four Scouts to the New World” was written several years ago, but I have chosen to post it now because of its connection to the crisis that is unfolding in Japan. One of the central themes of the essay is that any and all “perfect systems” have an innate tendency to self-destruct. The Tao Te Ching says, “The greatest perfection seems imperfect,” and “That which approaches perfection will soon end.”

People tend to use the words “tragedy” and “disaster” as if they were interchangeable; they are not. A “disaster” is an event that appears to happen by itself, that is thrust upon us from the external world—although this may or may not ultimately be so. A “tragedy,” on the other hand, is an event that directs us reexamine and to probe the highly peculiar nature of human action in the world. The key point is: That the actor has done nothing wrong.

A crisis has arrived, which demands that the actor act; in order to do so he must choose between two equally impossible alternatives. We are left with no choice but to empathize with the actor—for any choice that he makes will be simultaneously both right and wrong. The daily bureaucratic and scientific and political business of the world may be little more than the slow-motion clockwork that gives form to this tragic arc.

If the actor could view his projections from all of 360 degrees, it might be possible—for some period of time, and only just—to keep his actions in alignment with the whole.

If he launches a pet project—whether an essay called “Four Scouts to the New World,” or a boat made from the bones of gods, or a genetically engineered species, or a form of government, or a chain of nuclear reactors—he will tend to see it in a positive light. To act well, he must keep his focus; it is natural that he should block out any dissonant information. But reality is always vaster and more unpredictable than we think.

The premise, as presented by John Giordano: It is discovered that life can be supported on a pristine planet JUST LIKE THE EARTH located in a distant galaxy. The only difference is that there aren't any humans on the planet. The most evolved animals are apes and monkeys. All the natural resources are the same as Earth. Technology exists to get four people to the planet on a scouting mission. They will stay for one year, planning for the arrival of settlers from Earth.

Army Engineer

A bunker stocked with drums of radioactive waste will not be subject to the laws of chance. It will not be disturbed by the drift of continental plates. A computer simulation has assured us that no leakage will occur for 50,000 years.

As children of the industrial revolution, we are eager to put our faith in complicated systems. We believe that a design can be perfected in advance.

For this reason, I would next nominate for the voyage an army engineer, who would know that such fantasies do not come true. He trusts an expert only as far as he can throw him. A disaster waits around every corner. An alien craft is hiding in the silver lining of the cloud. No good deed will ever go unpunished.

The victim will get blamed. The guilty will hang the innocent from trees.

He trusts that good luck will turn into bad, if not today, then at least by tomorrow.

If something can go wrong, it probably will. To him courage is not a virtue. It is just a part of the job description, a way of thumbing his nose at death, a daily requirement for the survival of the group. A fan of history, he will remember the Maginot Line, and insist on planning for the camp not one but a multitude of defenses.

He will not complain, too much. He will gladly work with whatever is on hand. He will treat each challenge as a matter of life or death. With a few sticks and plastic bags, he will levitate a bridge across a river. He will refuse to offer or accept excuses. He will politely ask large boulders to step aside. He will scare crows. He will challenge the wind to a judo match. Threatening a leafy ear, he will put the fear of god into the uncooperative corn.

He will undercut the sentiment of the ecoscientist, and say blah blah blah to the historian of mythology. He will laugh at the obscure pronouncements of the shaman, and try to catch him off guard. He will succeed, in a way, but not too often, and only when allowed to do so. The army engineer is not politically correct. His off color humor will serve as a catalyst for growth, as it shakes the faith of the archetypal father/ mothers.

Is it not, in fact, possible to prepare a plan for Gaia 2, or dictate the behavior of the scouts. A black dog wanders here and there. Things happen. Chaos spreads her legs, as from her reconstructed landing pad she will tempt the muscular hero, saying "Come." The successful plan is built to incorporate snafus.

Historian of Mythology

It may be difficult to judge if the new environment is user friendly. As our four brave scouts push forth into the green light of the forest, they will be forced to reimagine their relationship to Nature, against ever shifting odds. It is not enough to be in love with her appearance. 

They will move, their upraised palms turned outward to the clearing. Eyes will open behind branches. They must fear the small disturbance in the wind. They must quickly act on her inscrutable commands. She is big. They are very small. Behind the landscape made of dreams, titanic forces may be massing for an attack.

Due to the unforeseeable nature of events, I am tempted to think that a doctor is a necessity. The other members of my planning group agree. The human body can easily get broken. The mind breaks also.

We do not really know that the planet is exactly like the Earth. No doubt seeing is believing. We will have catalogued each genus of bacteria in a foreign solar system. If the planet is alive, it is possible that she may choose to hide from us. Her electromagnetic grid may operate according to eccentric principles. Objects on this planet may occasionally fall up. The engineer may bump his head on an unidentified flying object. He will wake with amnesia, and third degree radiation burns, that do not hurt and are shaped like Egyptian hieroglyphs. Perhaps a shower of space junk will decimate a lean-to, with the ecoscientist inside.

Obsessive fear for safety was not an attitude indigenous to the Earth. It is not likely to have characterized its first inhabitants. Transplants from the realm of consciousness, it did not occur to those fields of gyroscopic energy to be anything other than careless with their bodies. Forethought was a later permutation. Space exploration is not now and never was for the faint of heart. Perhaps the new Earth is hungry for an act of tribute. Blood would be ok. To introduce themselves, the four scouts may want to sacrifice one member to the planet.

Is nature a good mother? She will speak from behind the two-faced mask of Janus.

Just how important is it to be safe, and if it is important, why bother to leave home? There was nothing that originally compelled us to depart from hyperspace.

Fear for safety may inhibit the play of open consciousness, contracting the scouts' range of movement. Should not the goal be fullness of experience? This leads me to propose as a motto: "We who are about to die salute you!" The early dead will be guaranteed a good place in the story. They will appear to the eyes of fascinated children. Each time anew, they will be buried in a makeshift ceremony, or burned, to the sound of Hindu chanting, on a pyre built from driftwood by the sea.

Destiny is strange, as is its disobedient shadow. Chance is peculiar. The self-generating story speaks. There is nothing to be done. The fabric of space/time unexpectedly rips, in such a way that no doctor can repair it. I therefore propose to substitute for the doctor a historian of mythology.

She will not preserve the safety of one experimental actor. She will throw a bridge across the generations. She will tell stories.

Her stories will not be for the purpose of entertainment, only. They will give birth to a dream, to a vision of the body politic, to the recombinant social history of the group. In her self she will integrate the demands of one lineage with many, without loosing the strange flavor of each.

The physical base will be powered by the wings of a superconscious aviary, by a fleet of living windmills, by a bank of solar energy cells. Death will take a holiday. There will be no resource that a dream does not renew. The group itself will be driven by the resonance of the spoken word. The historian of mythology will visit the amnesiac patient at home. Stories will be the raw material, from which others will one day weave the new world culture.

There will be stories and more stories. There will be every type of story, from everywhere. There will be small stories and large stories, fairy tales and obscure epics, shamanic flights and scientific chronicles, Zen improvisations and Hebrew genealogies, nostalgic odes and records of past futuristic wars.

The interdependent arising of Earth's languages must be scheduled to survive their transportation. One person must embody as much as possible of the imagination of the distant globe.

The historian of mythology will possess an encyclopedic memory. She will serve the group as a different kind of doctor, a green leaf on an amputated branch.

She will found an Institute for the Study of Inderdimensional Memory, and provoke a renaissance in the art of memory, an art in slow decline from a period before Homer. She will momentarily become the story that she speaks.

The dead will escape from their cryogenic cylinders. A brontosaurus will win the poetry slam. Fish will clap. Skeletons at sunset will crackle on the hearth. Smoke will assault the noses of the group. The historian of mythology will pause to amplify an echo—to make real to them the footstep of an army. The dead will kiss the target on her radioactive forehead. A burning elephant will dance from her tongue.

She will take by the hand the ragged artist from Lascaux, and call the omnipotent bindu from the sea, to create out of sound an indeterminate space—where anything can happen.

She will sponsor intercourse between the small and the large, between the microcosmic phallus and the macrocosmic wheel. The center will start to turn through the circumference. The open house will fly, shuttling between one solar system and the next.

(Illustration: Brian George, Fish Mummy and Vimanas, 1991)
New posts ever few days on my blog Masks of Origin

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