Monday, April 7, 2008

End of Story

I think I wrote earlier that one of my main objections to dying has to do with not knowing the end of the story. I love stories. I very easily get hooked on them. Last night, for instance, just before bedtime, I caught the start of a particularly intriguing movie and it frustrated me no end to know that I'd have to stay up past midnight to watch the whole thing. I chose not to.

But dying means not knowing the outcome of my own family stories: how my three grown children will develop and change, how my grandchildren will turn out as parents themselves, how their children might look... It means not knowing the outcome of political and global stories: how will the world look fifty years from now? Will our species survive its own excesses? Will we have learned to clean up some of our mess, and to live in greater peace and harmony with each other?

Tantalizing thoughts, brought on in part by a segment on CBS 60 Minutes last night about the space program. Now I have a good puritan liberal streak in me when it comes to the exploration of space: I bother a lot about the incredible expense, and about how that money could be better spent on schools and hospitals and roads. And yet, and yet... there's that other part that is fascinated with exploration, with the expansion of human knowledge, with daring the unimaginable.

This 60 Minutes piece was about the plan to return to the moon and use it as a base camp for the trip to Mars. Mars! Imagine that! What a trip, as we used to say. Human beings traveling hundreds of millions of miles through space and actually landing on another planet. What a story... and yet another that I'll never live to see the end of. I'll never know whether those brave astronauts will make it there... and make it safely back home to Earth.

So, yes, you can see the trouble I have with dying. No fair. Really. End of story.


John Torcello said...

Maybe not the 'End of Story' ?!:

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time"
T.S. Eliot

jen said...

something about going to Mars when the Earth is in such shambles makes me very sad.

robin andrea said...

I have often felt this way, Peter. Wanting to know the end of the stories, wanting to know the new stories a hundred years from now. I remember reading an obituary about a man who had died in San Francisco a few years ago. He died just before the 2004 elections. In the obituary it said if he had lived he would have voted to get George Bush out of office. I loved that passion, even out of the grave. Gave me hope.

I agree with jen. Earth is in shambles. We need to direct our attention here first. Mars can be on the list, but down past health care, environment, and energy.

PeterAtLarge said...

Maybe not, John... Nice quote

Jen and Andrea, yes, you're right. The sensible part of me agrees one hundred percent. But there's always that silly little boy who wants adventure...!

Mercurious said...

Admirable that you can admit your unahppiness with the fact of death.

I'm with you about going to the moon, mars and beyond...yes, there are problems to be fixed, but there's something about the human urge to search and explore that seems to me utterly noble.

Great article.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I comfort myself with thoughts of coming back again to see how things turned out, but there is the wee problem of returning each lifetime with amnesia. If we could just work out the kinks in the system, I'd feel a lot easier about the whole dying thing.

PeterAtLarge said...

So very true! We should be able to put our heads together to work out those "kinks"! Too bad we're too busy with other important things--like killing our fellow beings.

Merc--glad you're with me on that trip to Mars...