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The Close Call – A Space Odyssey

By Carl S ~

"They” said it couldn't be, and then that it couldn't be done. There have always been “they,” saying one shouldn't play god, if man were meant to fly... the human body is holy ergo autopsies are forbidden, curiosity has dire consequences, dogmas should never be questioned. Who hasn't been exposed to what “they” say? We have all benefited from the few who have ignored their voices, gone on, challenging “they.”

They said the Hubble telescope couldn't miss seeing a planet so close to Earth. But there it was. NASA named it “Sagan I,” after the scientist who encouraged the search for extraterrestrial life. They said there would never be a propulsion system capable of reaching it. You understand, there's nothing like a “It can't be done” challenge. Eventually a vehicle for space travel was developed, able to go to the planet and safely return within the time span of 30 Earth-years. The rocket blasted off, forgotten over the years. Thus began the riskiest adventure in the history of human evolution, its chances of returning the crew intact being 50/50. Why take the chance? One philosopher thought of an answer: “Ah but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, else what is Space for?”

Chapter 1. verse.1: On board, the crew settled in for living decades together. They were well chosen: emotionally well balanced, intelligent, curious and fascinated scientists in their 20's, with the talents to entertain one another and the thoroughness of a Darwin to record every detail of what they discovered. V. 2: For a steady fount of fun and diversion, they included a man who had become an anomaly ever since the societies on Earth had evolved to where the freethinking of the ages had become the common sense of today. This redundant missionary mentioned how he thought the planet's inhabitants, if there were any, would welcome his “good news.”

Chapter 2. V. 1: As expected, life-forms had evolved for millennia on Sagan I. There, “intelligent” life applied to all organic life. If you can accept having intelligent conversations with the humans there, and then also include with them animals similar to Earth's bonobos, turtles, zebras, chickens or crows, etc., you'll be right at home. V. 2: Everyone on Sagan I worked together, solved problems, shared experiences, tried to understand what reality meant to each individual, and lived amicably. All the sexes respected and enjoyed one another, their common intelligences, and each other’s differences. They had never known violence in all their history. Nice. The crew refused to change anything about them, and decided to stay.

V. 3: There are many wonders in this civilization: a universal language, open libraries containing millions of years of discoveries in evolution, astronomy, social relationships. Treatises on logic. Millions of years of applied scientific and other practical knowledge. One fact was outstanding to their culture: They regarded ignorance as the greatest evil. They heard of other cultures on other planets, which kept in their libraries books written out of ignorance, by ignorant men, wherein their ignorance was revered above truth. V. 4: They have a saying: “Beliefs without evidence are the bastard progeny of ignorance.” They warned of the wicked and confounding consequences such belief brings. Revered ignorance perpetuates ignorance, so it is evil. They want to know, not to believe.

Chapter 3. V. 1: And they have entertainments; every civilization does. Theirs are debates, songs, jokes, plays. Uniquely theirs is a collection of books named “Wurdly.” You might compare it to Earth's Mad magazine's “Mad-Libs” books, in which blanks are left in the sentences to be filled in with whatever words spring to mind, especially if they're ridiculous or puns. Although they regard words as special, certain words, such as “soul, sacred, sacrosanct, spiritual,” are considered ambiguous, impractical, and illogical. So, those words are often used in creating silly sentences. V. 2: As a harmless token of good will, their version of “Mad-Lib” writings were sent to Earth via space capsule. Most of them still contain intact blank spaces, but some have a few of them filled in haphazardly. These scriptures are welcomed by entrenched apologists and scholars as replacements for abandoned religious scriptures. They continue making a living by poring through and tirelessly expounding on texts they declare solemn and profound inerrant wisdom. (Scholars and apologists have no inkling of the intended sophisticated humor essential to Sagan I's inhabitants.)

Chapter 4. V. 1: And so the long-term trek was pronounced a success beyond all expectations. There was one fly in the pudding, though: the missionary. He said, “The inhabitants need to be redeemed. I'll tell them about the punishments for curiosity in Eden, of the killing of Abel by Cain, the Great Flood, the seven plagues on Egypt. But more than anything else, I'll tell them about Christ crucified and how they must accept him or else. And the children...” With these words, he was stopped, for his crew mates were appalled.

V. 2: And thus it came to pass the cover-up of the first and only murder ever in the history of Sagan I, and the last of the martyrs of Earth.