RETRO POST: Space, the Inevitable Frontier
If you have never read Isaac Asimov, shame on you. He is one of the best science fiction writers ever to pen a manuscript. Quickly now, go and purchase or borrow a few of his robot novels, or if you are to only read one story, choose the Foundation series.
I recently finished The End of Eternity, one of his shorter books. In this, we are presented with the plot that man has enabled himself to step outside of time. An organization has developed outside of time that Asimov, interestingly enough, calls Eternity. Eternity exists outside of time, and has the ability to send its agents into time to make adjustments here and there to prevent catastrophe, disease, war, drug addictions, ect. Their purpose as an organization is to better mankind by changing time and reality to avoid anything that compromises the greater good of mankind. In the different realities that come and go, people and personalities come into being as easily and quickly as they pass from reality. Risk has been eliminated and mankind slowly settles into comfort and contentment.
Into this is introduced the main character who is an ‘Eternal’ and a part of the whole process. He undergoes much change and is introduced to love unexpectedly. This upsets his whole equilibrium, and through a long set of orchestrated events, finds himself with the decision to destroy Eternity. He wrestles with the whole concept of contentment and safety existing in too great an amount. Security is paramount, and out the window goes risk, and also abnormal achievement. Asimov argues in this story that by removing abnormality, risk and danger, mankind has robbed itself of the drive to succeed. Man has slipped into a comfortable setting in which nothing threatens and nothing really challenges.
I won’t ruin the story and reveal how it ends, but Asimov is a master of the written word, and it ends with an interesting moral and closure. It made me think, and brought me back to a concept I have often wrestled with.
I make a good amount of money. I live in a secure area, with low crime, and a relatively secure government. I drive a dependable car, and have good friends who support me. My life has a minimum of risk or dangers, and I have done many things in my life to establish this. I have put structures in place, worked hard enough at my job to secure my spot there, and fostered relationships with mostly stable people in hopes of creating a warm safe place for me to exist. I don’t wonder where my next meal will come from, I don’t fear walking out my door, and I can express my religious beliefs in a public and open setting without fear of retribution. I have my own Eternity right here. I can step in at any time and protect my security and never have to fear the upset of the balance.
The Church is little better, and has often left me wondering if we would be better off with a little persecution. What if we had to fight for our beliefs? What if going to church, or carrying a Bible could end you up in jail, or dead? What is more difficult, fighting a physical enemy opposing your faith or battling your own leviathan of contentment and laziness?
So, I guess I am a little ashamed. I am ashamed that in such a safe place I find my weakness.
Asimov idealizes space exploration in his book as a focus for the anti-thesis of Eternity, always showing risk and danger, and as such any movement towards space is always reality changed and avoided. Space begins to form into this frontier that is avoided because of its supposed inevitable push towards catastrophe for man. Without the expansion and exploration of space though, mankind begins to withdraw and stagnate.
So what is my Space? What should I be stretching for, and where can I find it? I think I know, and yet do I have the strength? Do I have the wherewithal to step away from what is comfortable, be it physical, mental, or emotional safety, and risk? Can I stretch out my hand and grasp for space?