Spaceships & Christmas

    For some reason, I’ve always associated space exploration with Christmas.

    No, I don’t think it’s because of that movie Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. I think it’s deeper, going back to something elemental in my childhood brain.

    As a kid, I was an idealist. When I learned that there were poor people, I thought we should give them money. When I imagined growing up, I pictured opening a grocery store where everything was free. And when I learned that we were trapped by earth’s gravity, I thought that we should build rockets.

    I was always trying to invent things. At age 3, I was trying to build forts and airplanes. At age 5, I was trying to build robots and time machines. I didn’t have any doubt that these were things we could do — I knew it was just a matter of time.

    And so when I heard about black holes, I knew that they were out there. And when I learned about the Theory of Relativity, I had no trouble believing it. And when adults cautioned me that they really weren’t sure about any of this yet, I thought that they were quite silly. Of course there were black holes. Of course time dilation was possible. Of course the universe was massive and ripe for exploration.

    For me — in my innocence and idealism and naiveté — inventing new technologies and exploring the universe was the most obvious thing in the world.

    As a society, we tend to be much more cynical. We worry much more about practicality and pragmatism. We are concerned that big aspirations point to some sort of psychological deficit. We’re like the Freudian psychologist in Miracle on 34th Street: desperately trying to diagnose all the happiness and optimism as some sort of repressed trauma.

    This is why I am so inescapably Christian. And why I resonate so deeply with transhumanism. Because in them, we celebrate this idealism. We celebrate this naiveté. We look upon the universe with childlike innocence, and see a glorious place to explore.

    And that, really, is what Christmas is about. It’s the time that our society sets aside to celebrate the naive, and to indulge our idealism. It’s the time we dare to dream great dreams, and make big wishes, and sing audacious songs about a radically better future.

    And when we decorate our Christmas trees, is it any wonder that we string them with twinkling lights, and point them towards the stars?