Monday, November 2, 2009

Our Carnival of Heavenly Design

Look, I know I’m going to sound like a real spoilsport for saying this, but, regardless of what you might have seen in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, or any old episode of ALF or Mork and Mindy, I can assure you that no one is going to land his spaceship in your backyard any time soon – nor ever – for that matter.
     If “they” come, we’ll never know it, we’ll never recognize it – it will appear as a part of our own world – not as something else.

Trust me on that.
     I don’t have a movie to sell you, or a theological balm for loneliness to sell myself – nor do I have action dolls or air fresheners to market (ALF Air Freshener, 1987 Vintage, $4.99, eBay).

The alien invasion, the unfriendly occupation, the humorous sitcom cohabitation – these are all simply the tired tropes of an industry lacking the courage, and imagination, to end its cycle of diminishing repetition.

When we ask “Is there life in outer space?” we have already answered ourselves.
     I mean, aren’t we life in outer space?
     It is hubris that sets us to ponder such an empirical question – that leaves us perennially spinning in that silver saucer with the little bug-eyed green man from Mars.

How conservative is our illustrated template for alien life?
     We have exchanged H.G. Well’s helpless, quivering blobs – entombed in their walking celery stalks – for the entomological horror of H.R. Giger, and yet, the difference is all but minimal, for still do we imagine the Other as a reflection of ourselves – be it a cocaine-snorting comedian in a red jumpsuit, a phallic-faced puppet with an appetite for housecats, an embryonic reptilian grub shilling for a chocolate company – or a demonic dervish plucking hearts through metal grating.

It is not surprising that we’ve come to this narrative stalemate, for we facilitate it with the droids we send to other planets, and the images they flash back home, the data in which we find the rapture of ourselves – our carnival of heavenly design.

Might not the extraterrestrial be a part of us, be within us – might it not be what we call cancer – or any burgeoning virus or disease? And not even the viral life itself, but an element introduced from outside our biology – one that contributed to what we perceive as the dark mass showing on the radiologist’s film? Perhaps the alien life we so desperately seek arrived in concert with us, as particles that filtered into the atmosphere, sending our fickle evolutionary instinct in a unique direction – putting quill on mammal, bill on bird, petal on a rose – the laconic grin of the face of Robin Williams?
     Perhaps we are what we are, due wholly to their arrival.
     Perhaps we were “conquered” a billion years ago – an occupation that has resulted in us.

But, still, here we are, one desperately lonely chuckling of the cosmos – a spinning mass that quests for another – for new faces to evaluate, new valleys to trample, new seas to drink down. Might not we fare better in our investigations if we didn’t know what we were looking for – rather than presupposing what we were – and never finding it?

I am asking not for a revolution, but rather a shift in perspective, a new angle by which to imagine exterior life – by way of our interior selves.
     Forget “E.T. go home”.
     Reach for your own “godly” fingertip in the mirror and utter “E.T. come home” – only then might we stop visiting ourselves – time and time again.

Will the final, frustrating summation of space exploration be that we have failed to find ourselves?
     Are we forever to be seeking Heaven in the heavens – lost on a trail of sweet, candy-coated pieces?