Story type: Essay
AND SHALL WE MOVE ON TO THE SUN SOME FINE DAY?
The most interesting questions are such as these:
Whence did we come?
Whither are we going?
And, by the way, what are we? Are we of any true importance? Are we a permanent part of the universal scheme, privileged to move along through the ages and see the end as we have seen the beginning? Or are we, as advanced science says, merely like the weevil in the biscuit–no part of the Baker’s plan?
Are we indestructible specks of cosmic intelligence, lighting up and animating one material body after another–never destroyed–or do we play on this earth the passing part of the microbe in the Brie cheese, which gives that cheese its flavor?
A great scientist, coldly analyzing the chemical processes essential to the creation of each new human being, scoffs at any possibility of immortality. With the microscope at his eye, he magnifies nature’s mysteries; he sums up the investigations of the Hertwig brothers; he discourses learnedly of the nucleolus of the Cytula–or progeny cell. He declares that science is able to watch the creation of a human being, as it watches the progress of a chick in the egg. He asserts that each new creature is merely the result of a chemical process blending qualities of the mother and father. Having a “final beginning,” man must have a final end. Man–a mixture of two sets of qualities–has no more chance of immortality than has beer, which is a mixture of malt and hops.
Read and think over this cold summing-up of our mean, limited destiny as science farthest advanced now sees it:
“It must appear utterly senseless now to speak of the immortality of the human person, when we know how this person, with all its individual qualities of body and mind, has arisen. How can this person possess an eternal life without end? The human person, like every other many-celled individual, IS BUT A PASSING PHENOMENON OF ORGANIC LIFE. With its death, the series of its vital activities ceases entirely, just as it began.”
That certainly is discouraging to a man who for fifty years has sung “I want to be an angel.”
Yet that is what Haeckel has to say about our chance of immortality. But the other side of the grave has the LAST say, and we think it will discredit Haeckel. We should even undertake to do that now and here in two columns of a yellow journal. But we are DETERMINED before the column ends to ask you what you think of our moon-earth-sun transmigration notion.
The sun is now a blazing mass, inconceivably huge, inconceivably fierce in our eyes. Its flames leap hundreds of thousands of miles into space. If our earth fell to the sun, it would melt as a snow-flake falling upon a blazing forest. We certainly do not readily look upon the sun as our future home, if we accept its present condition as permanent.
But once upon a time, hundreds of millions of years back, this earth used to look TO THE MOON, on a smaller scale, as the sun now looks to us. If there were on the moon at that time inferior human beings, in a low state of cosmic evolution, they undoubtedly had to thank the earth for their life, as we thank the sun. To them the earth, then incandescent, blazing with the heat that now reveals itself through volcanoes, was simply a whirling ball of fire, put in its place to warm them.
They could no more think that men would ever come to live here than we can now think of moving on to the sun. —-
In course of time this earth cooled off. It cooled so thoroughly that the moon died of cold. Life could no longer continue there.
The dead satellite’s destiny thenceforward was to show gratitude for past heat by moving our tides and cheering our poets. As life died out on the cold moon which had given us temporary hospitality, life sprang into being on this planet, now fitted to support it.
Here, on a larger sphere, with greater opportunities, mankind is growing, and will far outstrip all that it could have done on the poor little moon.
Meanwhile, as we struggle on, improving slowly, the sun, as science proves, is cooling off in its turn. The flames become less fierce as the thousands of centuries roll by. When we shall have developed as much as possible on this limited planet, our home will be cooled and ready on the sun, centre of our life in this corner of space.
We shall move up a step–as boys do in the public schools. We shall have been moon men, earth men, and shall graduate into sun men. Think of a home so vast! On that grand star we shall lead lives worth while, and justify Huxley’s belief that men exist somewhere compared to whom we should “be as black beetles compared to us.”
The excitement of meeting our brothers from other planets as they move up to the sun in batchcs will be great.