Saturday, March 28, 2009

Beam me up, Spock!

The unforgettable ears of Star Trek hero Spock

Great emptiness was created above us in the sudden expansion of distances and space around Earth that followed when the discoveries of early 20th century astronomy became generally known.

Medieval Europeans had a happy balance of existence on earth in the middle, under the heavens of God and above the hell of devils and Church taking good care of the eternal issues concerning human beings before and during and after life.

When Jules Verne wrote his classic science fiction the scientifically known universe was of limited size estimated at about 100.000 light years across, space a rather boring empty coldness with sun like stars with planetary systems here and there separated by nothing. Verne's famed fictional trip from Earth to Moon and back in 1865 was, of cause, at its time quite sensational publication. But with its accuracy it was a bit too technical for the masses to make a deeper impression.

From Steven Spielberg's spooky version of War of Worlds (2005)

Space was still a rather empty place for most humans in October 8, 1938 when Orson Wells shocked the American radio audience into panic with very real radio broadcast of H.G. Wells' novel War of the Worlds. The hysterical reaction was probably much more influenced by the feeling in the air that a great war was going to reach the shores of USA than any factual knowledge about planet Mars and its canals and inhabitants.

In the old times, far corners of the earth were filled with fairytale characters and especially the oceans fascinated the curious mind. There is no parallel to the richness of Greek imagination and their golden legends with strong psychological and intellectual sting still have a lasting influence on those who hear them. Imaginary story telling mixed with old legends and mythology filled the mental surroundings in all cultures from ancient India to Africa, Far East and even Pacific islands.

Lord of the Rings

Human mind is a powerful and creative engine. J .R.R. Tolkien created a reality of his own that has powerful and lasting interest with its Hobbits and that Ring. Or, it is not perhaps quite his own peculiar reality but rather our common human reality dressed into the clothes of a very colourful and exciting story and spiced with imaginary characters who nevertheless ring true as personalities. The wonderful world of Harry Potter created by J.K. Rowling may not have the same human depth and width of imagination as Tolkien's massive volumes but the captivating story of the English school boy will has claimed his place among the great imaginary characters of western culture.

Science made space empty of personal characters, gods and spirits and dragons. But people do not like such huge unknowns. An empty space up there above our heads is not a nice feeling. So the stories were moved there from the by now too familiar and small boundaries of earth.

Religions became less and less comforting as filler of the space above us as it has become more and more difficult to locate divinities "up". Where is "up" when everything is whirling around, spinning and turning topsy turvy and expanding and colliding?

The great power of human mind to the help!

And so it has happened that with the help of our collective imagination most people today have a quiet comfortable feeling that they "know" what is up there even if it is millions of light years away from us.

A very small portion of these people are professionals, cosmologists and astronomers who know increasingly detailed scientific, mathematical, physical and chemical facts about the universe.

The great majority of these people having that nice "I know" feeling have adopted a totally imaginary world on the hazy borders of their subconscious minds.

This imaginary world is based on the space travels made by the human mind and they shown in such convincing vivid detail, with such real human emotion and feeling of understanding that it has created the "I know" feeling - someone has been there and even if nobody has been anywhere near there we still know what there is to be found.

This ability to unite our minds by using imagery and visual effects and all kind of techniques is the root in the power of mass-media and especially in marketing. Hollywood and Bollywood and other Woods are feeding people with what people want to hear and see and the media is effectively giving the impression that we are breaking the borders of unknown. But this is a totally imaginary - or sometimes carefully considered imaginary science fiction - breaking into the unknown.

And yet. Jules Verne is an example that it may not necessarily be all wrong. Somehow, somewhere, our mind is capable of creating reality that is today somewhere or will become reality in the future.

The younger population of this earth having access to the product of American film industry has absorbed as almost self-evident the way how Captain Kirk moves from some distant planet back to the wondrous spaceship Enterprise with that simple request "Beam me up, Spock". Of course, that is how it is done! We can visualize - with the help of the creators of the legendary Start Trek - how a space ship gains speed and wraps through the universe with incredible lightness of being. No problem at all!

Star Trek Enterprise

Gene Roddenbery (1921-1994), the Great Bird of the Galaxy, will probably be recognized by future generations as an outstanding genius of our culture. Few may realize how far-reaching impact the original Star Trek TV series 1966-1969 has had on human civilization on the entire earth. Roddenbery suggested the series in 1960 as an idea of putting Swift's classic Gulliver's Travels into space. The rest is history.

And voilà! The scary and uneasy emptiness above - and below - our heads has all but disappeared.

Christian God and angels and those mighty Nordic pagan divinities causing thunders with their hammers have given room to brave humans, the core family or the basic team with that necessary bad apple. The empty void created by disappearing religious beliefs has been filled. Not with other religious beliefs based on modern world view but with us! We are the brave humans who challenge the impossible and succeed.

The new crew of Enterprise

With the help of these characters movie industry has created we have conquered, we are there, we are the Lords of the vast cosmos, we humans shoot at the Indians of today's space westerns and win! Veni, vidi, vici - we came, was saw, we won. In our not so humble minds.

So the space above our heads is filled with the events described in the original Star Trek series and motion pictures (latest coming to theatres near you in 2009) with the events and characters in the famed trilogy of Star Wars by George Lucas and with the imagination in numerous other space adventures, explorations and invasions that are copying the original concept of Star Trek.

Of course, we all know that this is all fictional.

But yet, strangely, this fictional data is actually quite satisfying and it fills with grey feeling of knowing something the data that in reality is missing from our minds about what is out there in space. The mass-media gives us for a few dollars price of a movie ticket or book or cartoon magazine a possible, if not plausible, mental image about what it would be like up there in Enterprise crossing light-years faster than the light.

The amazing power of human mind!

you may ask me: "what about Isaac Asimov?"

I can only say: "oh, he is another story altogether".

you may ask me: "what about UFO's and God?"

I would say: "I will come back to that subject in another posting".

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