Saturday, 19 August 2017


Already this week my fellow bloggers have given the theme of shipwreck an appropriately nautical treatment, which leaves me feeling that I should strive for something a little different by way of contrast. Therefore, although I was tempted to write about Cornish wreckers - those black hearts who in bygone days deliberately lured merchant ships onto the rocks at night with false lights so they could reap plunder from the wreckage - I have opted instead to move the topic to a whole other plane. We're going aeronautical, astronautical even. Fasten your seatbelts...

Right. Are we alone?

By which I mean 'in the universe' (or multiverse or omniverse or whatever you prefer to call the whole cosmic shebang). Or is there other demonstrably intelligent life out there? Could there be sentient beings inhabiting some planet revolving around a distant star in this or any other galaxy? (I'm discounting the Clangers, by the way.) If so, might they be wondering if they are alone as well?

I have two views (theories is too grand a term) regarding the infinite everything. One I call the uniqueness variant and it goes like this: we are the only instance (by virtue of our particular chemical circumstance in space/time) of intelligent life as we would understand it, simply because there are no repeats in an infinite sequence. We are unique and very much alone.

The other is the Xerox variant and it states: that if the omniverse is truly infinite, then surely there must be multiple locations in space/time whose circumstances sufficiently replicate our own for intelligent life to have developed. Such evolutions could be replicated many times over. I prefer this latter view.

Even supposing they exist, the vast distances of time and space that separate each oasis of life may be so huge as to render us as good as alone - and yet.....

"We must surely seek unity. We must surely seek to communicate with some of those fires burning far apart in the landscape." The words belong to Antoine de Saint-Exupery, adventurer, pioneering aviator, poet and novelist of the inter-war years. I'm part way through reading a weighty biography of Saint-Exupery, best known as the author of The Little Prince (apparently the most widely read work of French literature) and yet his other books, particularly Night Flight and Wind, Sand and Stars are the ones that had a profound impact on me. In them he describes his adventures in North Africa and South America in the very early days of commercial air traffic, flying the mail for Aeropostale in unreliable, open-cockpit planes, navigating by the stars, making forced landings for repairs in the desert, crashing on more than one occasion.

Aviation has come an immense distance in a hundred years. Man has set foot on the moon. There are plans in process to send astronauts to Mars (one-way tickets only) within the next decade or so. However, this is all merely back-yard manoeuvring in the grand scheme of things. As I said, the distances of interstellar space are so vast we may never make the face-to-face connection anticipated in sci-fi novels and movies. There may never be close encounters of the third kind. And yet....

Supposing Earth has already been visited by our nearest cosmic neighbours thousands, maybe millions of years ago. Supposing they came, they saw, they were shipwrecked.

They came, they saw, they were shipwrecked.
The survivors may even have seeded a great leap in our own evolutionary progression.  Perhaps our fascination with other worlds is rooted in a shadowy remembrance our alien origins. Mere idle speculation, I know, but of such imaginings are poems made. Eternity is just one dimension of now.

Stardust Memory
Our old world dying, made toxic
by our worst excess, we fired our rocket ships
by the dozen into the ravishing depths
of the heavens,
scattering the last and best of our kind
across the cosmic field of stars
in hope of seeding by some miracle
just one fresh start, to find
a new home and another chance to grow,
staking our bid for immortality
on there being a welcoming host amid the void.
And now it seems, against the odds,
far from being destroyed
at least one craft has navigated
safely to its shore,
shipwrecked on this fair ground.
From out we lucky few
a cast of thousands can be spawned,
this new found world transformed.
Let us vow however
in the moment of our deliverance
not to repeat the errors of the past.
Let's make this one last.

As a bonus, a link to Neil Young's song on theme: After The Goldrush

Thanks for reading. Let all the children boogie, S ;-)


Adele said...

Was God an astronaut?
There is certainly compelling evidence for a genetic leap.

Love the poem.

Steve Rowland said...

Was Erich von Daniken delusional? Almost certainly yes, but quite entertainingly so. I'm not personally convinced about the 'genetic leap'; I was just fabulating and waving a cautionary tale.

Anonymous said...

Highly entertaining.

Anonymous said...

The eye in the sky is watching you.

Anonymous said...

I liked the ecological message in your poem. Thx.

Steve Rowland said...

Thanks anon. I wasn't sure about the 'Let us vow...' bit - might come up with a better attempt in due course.

Anonymous said...

Intriguing blog and loved the poem.

Anonymous said...

Loved the blog and the poem. That picture - what and where???