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Friday, July 6, 2012

Getting Out There

The next explorer of the red planet.

Since I’ve returned from England, I’ve seen several movies in my local multiplex.  Two of those were highly anticipated installments in popular franchises.  Last year, I had the honor of meeting Lowell Cunningham, who wrote “The Men in Black” comics upon which the film series is based.  So I enjoyed watching “Men in Black 3,” even if it didn’t feature nearly enough screen time with Tommy Lee Jones.  This is no slight against Josh Brolin, whose portrayal of young Agent K was masterful.  It’s just that there’s only one real Agent K, and his name is Tommy Lee Jones.

The other highly anticipated installment wasn’t a sequel, but a prequel.  “Prometheus” suggests a backstory to “Alien,” and offers an ending that could provide a new direction for the franchise.  Director Ridley Scott is not like the author Steven Brust: he doesn’t even pretend to be a storyteller.  In his own words, he creates worlds.  His incredibly stylized imagery reminds one of Stanley Kubrick, another director who never sought to fully flesh out his ideas and make them coherent.  Instead, explanations are never offered, and the audience is left with more questions than answers.  His style thus marks him as “Ridley Scott: The Incomplete Package,” but oh, to be so incomplete!

Venturing to England this year, and exploring the various James Herriot sites (including, of course, the wonderful Ritz Cinema), was an invigorating experience.  The trip shall no doubt remain one of the highlights of my life.  I learned so much, felt so much, and embraced so much that was different.  I returned a new person, with a better understanding of myself and my world.

“Men in Black” suggests that many intelligent alien species are not only Out There, but are Here, living with us, while you read this blog post.  They land in New York City, get Visas, work permits, and extraterrestrial Green Cards.  They share the planet with us.  Some may be unfriendly, and intent on destroying our world.  Yet meeting and learning from our interstellar neighbors aids us in defending everything we hold dear.  

“Prometheus” suggests that aliens visited Earth in the past, but if we want to meet them now, we must go Out There to find them.  While we may face life-threatening dangers, we are promised discoveries that can transform us into new people with a better understanding of ourselves and the universe. 

Curiosity awaits discovery.

Knowing how travel and exploration have enriched me, I long for humanity to really get Out There.  Decades ago, we ventured to the moon, but we’ve yet to return.  We are sending rovers to Mars, and while that’s undeniably cool, such efforts cannot replicate the benefits of travel.  At best, they assemble guidebooks on what we might find Out There when we finally venture from our comfortable home.  The data we gather from such probes can suggest Points of Interest or a possible itinerary, but we cannot be transformed into new people with a better understanding of ourselves until we actually get Out There.

Through my writing, and through my exploration of our planet, I seek to transform myself into a better and more productive member of society, someone who can help us all move forward.  (I’m sure each of us seeks to do the same).  I hope that in this election year, we find leaders who won’t cancel space programs, but actually initiate, fund, and complete them.  As a species we need such leadership.  I can only imagine how we might all grow wiser, and transform our world for the better, if only we would build upon the dreams of our beloved and visionary Fiction, and finally get Out There.

Looking upward,
Dragon Dave

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