In other news nothing much has been happening. I've been having weird dreams about space travel. I don't know what triggered them. Maybe it was watching a "Spongebob Squarepants" episode about Spongebob and Sandy taking a vacation on the moon. Then I had a dream about circling the moon (NOT landing on it) and watching the landscape out my window. I felt superior because not a lot of people can say that they've circled the moon.
Then a few days later I dreamt that I was taking a trip to Mars. I think this dream took place in the near future maybe... or rather the moderately distant future because I remember knowing that there was a small city on Mars. It had a "Starbucks" and everything... but no bookstore. Still, getting to Mars was complicated. People who wanted to visit the small Earth colony on Mars needed to get a clean bill of health and withstand g-forces of 3 or 4 just to survive lift-off from Earth's gravity. It scared the hell out of me and I secretly hoped that the doctors would find some miner health thing during my check-up so I could be exempt from taking the Mars trip. Another passenger, a woman who actually is a work colleague of mine in reality, was barred because she was found to have pneumonia. I waited in anticipation for a diagnosis that would rescue me from having to endure the trip... and I suppose I got the desired reprieve when I finally awoke.
I'm guessing Mars popped into my REM-state mind after I had heard a story on NPR's "All Things Considered" about a planned private-enterprise trip to Mars scheduled for twenty-twenty-something. One of the most amazing qualifications for astronauts going to Mars is that they have to reconcile themselves to the fact that they're going to have to die on Mars. The Mars move will be permanent for them.
I am not an unadventurous person and I enjoy being alone most of the time. Nevertheless I could never die on Mars. I love this Earth too much. I need to be surrounded by living things. People can be wearisome, God knows, but plants and animals and running water and forests and mountains covered with snow and alpine growth are essential. I cannot live surrounded by bare rock. I spent two years of my life living in the Gobi and that was tough. It was all dust and rock. Hell, even Southern California can be a trial. It's so damn dry.
Another reason why dying on Mars or even just dying in space.... or dying in Earth's upper atmosphere is an uncomfortable prospect for me is more metaphysical. I'm an agnostic, but some little part of me still stubbornly refuses to believe that death is the end of all life. A crumb of me covers its ears when considering that death is a mere return to the non-existence we all dwelt in before our births. I like to believe that death is a holding pattern for our consciousness until the universe dies with all information and mass falling down massive black holes. Then the black holes combine to form a body of great mass- a universe's equivalent worth of mass- and explodes outward again. Planets re-form again, life begins anew and we all live our lives again exactly as we have in our past and will do eternally into the future. It's another cycle. So the atheists are right when they say we have only one life to live and the believers are right too when they say there is life after death.
I wouldn't mind that scenario. I have a wonderful life and I wouldn't mind living it over and over again into eternity. It's nothing that I believe will actually happen. I don't believe it, I just hope for it.
Stupid, yes, I know. But it still makes me itchy. I would go anywhere on Earth, but I would not want to go to Mars unless I knew I would come back. It's like what one Mongolian woman told me about funeral traditions in ancient, rural, Mongolian tradition. "Whenever someone dies, the family goes to visit the local temple. The Buddhist priest looks up dates in his scrolls and meditates and then says when the dead relative's soul with reincarnate. He usually says something like: 'A baby will be born next year and that baby will have your dead relative's soul in its body,'" The woman continued matter-of-factly that it was a safe prediction because "We Mongolians love to make babies, so there was almost certainly going to be a baby born next year if there was no woman pregnant at the moment the priest made the prediction."
I love the idea that the grief of a relative's death could be tempered by the knowledge that the relative will be returned to you as a newborn baby. It's a comforting thought and a comforting tradition.... even if not entirely believable. Nevertheless, as Ugui from "Kung Fu Panda" says: "Nothing is impossible." That is why I plan to spend the rest of my life on Earth.