As I was browsing the pages of the BBC News website today, I was delighted to discover (in and amongst the troubling headlines dealing with the Syria crisis) that Voyager-1 has finally passed the heliosphere, beginning an interstellar journey across the cosmos. I won’t bog down this post explaining exactly what Voyager-1 is, plenty of information about it can be found via the link to the BBC article at the top of this page. What I did want to talk about was the significance of this moment and the perspective it ought to bring to our, sadly, still deeply troubled species.
Voyager-1: The Herald of a Lost People?
We live, in troubling times. As I mentioned, I spotted this story while reading through articles about the unfolding crisis in Syria. It strikes me as profoundly unsettling, yet chillingly in-character, that in the moment when we send our first spacecraft beyond the influence of the Sun’s gravity, we are also a species that still engages in self destruction. Voyager-1 carries with it a golden phonograph, along with simple instructions for it’s use, filled with some of the finest representations of our culture and achievements. In spite of these achievements, we still allow oppression and greed to tear apart our society.
One doesn’t have to look very far back into the history books to find examples of how the human race has consistently stamped out open enquiry and freedom of thought. It is, sadly, a theme that runs back to the times of the ancient Greek philosophers Democritus and Leucippus. Their unhindered free thought brought about an understanding of the basic principles of the atom and it’s relationship to the Universe at large, that was fundamentally correct. Their discoveries were swept under a carpet of blind mysticism; only to be rediscovered centuries later by men who once again found themselves free to inquire without fear of persecution by the institution of superstition.
But still, even as Voyager-1 plunges into the depths of interstellar space, the wars of man rage on. History shows us that we may never be free from tyrants like President Assad. The Middle East, as ever, is a boiling pot of unrest and conflict. It all boils down to greed and mysticism. These are things we need to let go of, if we are ever to follow Voyager beyond our solar system.