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Published:February 22nd, 2009 16:35 EST
Man, Behind The Curtain

Man, Behind The Curtain

By Sean Stubblefield


I believe Isaac Asimov once said, Science fiction is an existential metaphor that allows us to tell stories about the human condition. Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinded critics and philosophers of today. But the core of science fiction--its essence--has become crucial to our salvation, if we are to be saved at all." 

and it is that essence-- at the core of sci-fi-- I want to speak on, rather than sci-fi itself.

We don`t stop playing because we feel old, we feel old because we stop playing.

Recently embarking on a pleasure cruise through the Caribbean islands, I was parenthetically reminded of the dismal boredom pervading and corrupting much of our society. Nay, our very souls.

Many people trundle around aimlessly with dim eyes, hollow hearts, and empty minds. Passion, joy, life, for life... dwindle.

Even out at sea, on vacation, the vulgar mainland platitudes of malcontention followed them aboard and abroad like a lost puppy. Satisfied to traverse a well worn path and take short cuts, they usually avoid difficulty and eschew challenge for the sake of an ever-more convenience to the point of and akin to handicapping or incapacitating themselves with a presumption of misguided entitlement. Fatigue is everywhere, revealed and concealed in the mirror-mask.

Try as they might, and as much as they may have craved doing so, they could not escape the dull and disappointing drudgery of their enfeebled existence which made this cruise seem an appropriate and necessary undertaking to them. Thoughtlessly, they carried their troubles with them, a proverbial monkey on their backs, uncaged. They sought merely to amuse themselves for a while.

During this trip, I sadly beheld a great multitude not eager for a voyage, but desperate for distraction, or attention. By all appearances, the sense of adventure and wonder was dead or dying in most of them--- if it was ever even present at all. This excursion was merely something to do " attaining a sense of the routine, because that`s what people do ", and appeared to have little or no more significance to most of these passengers than temporary diversion. The vast majority seemed more interested in vegetating, partying and shopping than venturing. Why is this? How did that come to be?

When we don`t pay attention to our lives, when we quit being aware of ourselves, when we are not mindful of our circumstances, we fail to notice what is missing, or that something IS indeed missing. We need to be willing to state the obvious " just in case, to serve either as a reminder or as a lesson, to ourselves and to others.

Just in case someone is listening, in case someone needs to hear.

We often don`t really appreciate the value of something until it`s gone.

True? Yes. Trite? Perhaps. Obvious? Maybe not.

I`m repeating it anyway, since it bears repeating.

A necessary and useful truth should never be deemed amiss, or remiss.

And if this diatribe acquires an impression of being a tedious or self-indulgent lecture, I offer no apologies, except where it feels " if it feels " condescending or cynical; I must speak my mind on this matter, regardless.

It is easy to assume that what is obvious to us must be obvious to everyone else. But I`ve learned that`s not necessarily so. We run the risk of either giving people too much credit or insulting their intelligence. We can assume too much, or too little. However, a thing can only be obvious to us if we are truly aware of it, and comprehend it. We must become aware-- be made aware-- to be aware.

But what if we don`t realize that something is missing? Or what if it was never there to begin with? What if we don`t know that we don`t know? Or don`t know what we don`t know? How, then, can we seek to remedy this omission or apply that knowledge?

Occasionally, it is the absence of something which brings its existence to our attention. Granting this important observation, we must not let our sanctity disappear and dissolve before we are able to appreciate it. By then, it may be too late to salvage. Sometimes, we accept as obvious what is actually only prevalent or habitual. The trappings of our culture have become exactly that: shackles and muzzles deceptively posing as a comforting order and stability. They inadvertently limit our perceptions and perspectives, if we allow them to. They bind us " and not in the good way. Confining us in dreadful isolation and desolation more than uniting us in harmony and camaraderie, as intended.

On some unconscious, unspoken, unacknowledged level we collectively concede this " hence the source of our general but certain malaise; although, maybe we can`t put our finger on it and don`t know how to break away.

We are content to go through the motions of a status quo, with scarcely a second thought as to why? " and what for? ".

We easily surrender or sacrifice the responsibility of thinking for ourselves, forgetting how to think for ourselves and why, when others are available to do it instead.

We lazily and absent mindedly let our culture or peers do too much of our fundamental thinking for us, instinctively and autonomically accepting beliefs and habits on custom rather than deliberated consideration. If we are inclined to cease looking for answers or settle for quick and easy answers, we tend to stop looking for questions and difficult answers. Exactly this kind of inattention and indifference-- in which the citizens are too forgiving and too forgetful of transgressions by their government or iniquities of their society-- makes it dangerously possible for a free democratic republic to casually slip into the garb of tyranny " or for tyranny to discreetly pass itself off as a democratic republic in which ideas like liberty ", justice " and independence " have no value even as antiquated words, or exist only in vague memory of legend and the dusty, desultory pages of history books.

We commonly occupy ourselves with idle preoccupations, merely passing time as we ostentatiously adorn and flaunt ourselves with dubious pride and prejudice in a procession of willful ignorance we like to call our life.

Silent screams of indignity are buried, hidden, ignored " surreptitiously or unawares, beneath and behind seductively inane extravagances of a culture that subliminally instills " no, inflicts " a mundane apathy on its captive audience of acolytes.

Yeah verily, to endure the stultifying lure and lull of catatonic entropy as inevitable, and desirable, without bothering to so much as wince in protest, is to have not really lived--- hastening the end, rendering a demise well deserved. It is crucial to the future of humanity " at least a future worth achieving-- that we maintain vigilance and conscientiousness in determining and contemplating what might have been, what could be, and what ought to be. And what should not be. The future requires us to wonder while we wander " keeping in mind that the future derives from now.

If we are unfortunate enough to reach a point when and where we stop caring about the future, stop imagining, stop hoping, stop searching, stop questioning " then we might as well go all in and kill ourselves at the soonest available opportunity and be done with it, and not half-ass it through our "what is sure to be a miserable-- existence anymore. Because then our lives have already ended, we`re already dead inside. We would just be too mollified to know it. Ignorance, as they say, is bliss. But it is still ignorance.

So, finally, what is the essence at the core of science fiction? It is simply, yet vitally, to ask the question which begs " or perhaps demands-- an answer: what if? ".

Ascendant Man image credit goes to Jim Lebbad; BOOK COVER OF "FORWARD THE FOUNDATION" (written by Asimov)