The Interstellar Epistle
It was fourteen years ago that you made a scrumptious meal out of a boy’s notebook, and thereby his homework, and helped him escape the copious terror of his mathematics teacher. That vivacious boy now perceives himself as a more serene, and perhaps more pompously, a thoughtful patrician — well, to the extent that he can affect a patrician air amid the decided crudeness of his limited world. Such polemics as issue from him are a result not of his proclivity for wrath, but of his cacoethic desire to manifest his infinite capability for verbal malice, and of the profuse affinity for making use of the full amplitude of the English language. For, in a manner of speaking, he loves words more than life itself.
As a child, however, he would not have imagined a terror greater than that embodied by his mathematics teacher. His habit of affecting a patrician air has, over the years, led him to think of many others as lowly, that mathematics teacher included, so much so that so trivial a thing as his name is lost in a haze. But as he has grown, so has broadened his conception of terror. How very local, and retrospectively simple, it once was! And now it is of prodigious, indeed planetary proportions — its provenance not from beyond the Earth, but within the air of that unfortunate planet.
Candidly, it was not strangeness that I experienced when I first saw you. The ineffable confluence of the elements and the forces of evolution did not, evidently, produce a radically dissimilar anatomy in your species. But the feeling of surrealism did course through me as I beheld your conveyance: the elegance of its midnight blue, the majesty of its lights, and the power of its silent flight. I saw you depart, an indescribable sense of content writ large on my conscious. And yet, in unremitting earnest, I awaited your return to Earth, that I may board the plush conveyance of your kind and experience your planet. And a hearty experience it was.
Perhaps, as someone modestly blessed with scripturience, I tend to be perceptive; seeking to imbibe much, that the acquired sentiment may be turned to the art of elegant composition. The very first step outside the craft and into the air, introduced me to the reign of ecumenopolitan manners. It looked, felt, and sounded like a world city — all the more strange given my unfamiliarity with ecumenopolises, but I had perhaps an intuitive sense of what it ought to be. To the stride of the people, and to their countenances, there was a certain grace. And gratitude be laid at your doorstep, the miniature translation device helped me discern courtliness in their speech.
I learned that your world city is governed by a senate, headed by an emperor. In a wise, I was reminded of the Roman Empire, and of the Indian conception of Rajya Dharma. But I discovered an absence of that Earthly phenomenon which might be curious to you: religion. You told me that the great mystics of your world meditated on the all-encompassing cosmic energy that surrounded us, bound us, and penetrated us — a ‘religion’ of sorts, some on Earth might hold, though I do not necessarily agree. Some such notion was held by one of the most eminent scientists on Earth, the physicist Albert Einstein, who regarded God as the sum total of the physical laws which describe the universe.
A voluminous portion of literature on Earth attaches anthropomorphic properties to God. Some religions posit him as the singular creator, external to his creation — others have the conception of the primordial being manifested in different forms, and divinity inseparable from creation. It is curious that some instances of the former are wedded to a grotesque intolerance of others. Indeed, they metastasized, and for a considerable duration of history, marauded over continents, consigning ‘false religions’ to extinction. One survived to the most conspicuous degree: the heart of my country, that which is crudely called Hinduism. And yet, it is this great survivor of a system that births the most noisome breed of self-loathers one may ever encounter, while the swords of the former continue to be sharpened, the manner of cleaving now more insidious.
In many ways, it is the singular occupation of the current form of my civilization, to intellectualize mediocrity, to revel in internecine arguments despite the flagitious wraiths awaiting at the gates. The self-loathing breed probably loves the wraiths, and its members experience a delirious joy in snubbing their fraternity. So long as such turpitude exists, Earth cannot be civilized enough to be an ecumenopolis, much less a member of a larger galactic community, should one exist.
If you perceive a dearth of joy on my planet when compared to that from fourteen years ago, it is perhaps owed to an instance of technological advancement that took my planet by storm: ‘social media’, a means for people to exist on cyberspace. Uploading opinions, forming virtual communities; a world by itself exists on cyberspace, but it is very conducive to acrimonious tempers, and the regular iterations of this temper would, I imagine, result in a generally unhappier society. And yet, some of this unhappiness and bile is sourced in the genuine concern of survival, that animates many of my fraternity. It is no wonder that I associate with that desire to survive.
How beatific were the days I had imagined for the morrows, when I beheld your conveyance! A future of stratospheric structures meshed with rich verdure, deluxe homes and prestigious schools, firm planetary foundations and galactic ambitions. I shall not live to see such a future, but seeing as we are slipping insensibly back to ferity, there is little possibility that it may indeed come to pass.