Putting the ‘fun’ back in eschatology

If you didn’t already know this, the sun is going to die.

When I think about the future, I don’t think about inescapable ends. But even if we solve global warming and destroy nuclear bombs and control population, ultimately, the human race will annihilate itself if we stay here. Eventually, inevitably, we will no longer be able to live on Earth: We have a giant fireball clock ticking down twilight by twilight.

In many ways, I think mortality is more manageable when we consider our eternal components; our genetics and otherwise that carry on after us. But soon enough, the books we write and the plants we grow will freeze up and rot in the darkness.

But maybe there’s hope.

What the universe really boils down to is a race between how long it takes a planet to evolve a life form intelligent enough to create technology capable of transporting and sustaining that life form off the planet in the time before the sun in that planet’s solar system explodes. I have a limited set of comparative data points, but I’d estimate that we’re actually doing okay at this point. We already have life, intelligent life, technology and (primitive) space travel. And we still have some time before our sun runs out of hydrogen and goes nuclear.

Yet none of that matters unless we can develop a sustainable means of living and traveling in space. Maybe we can. What I’ve concluded is that if we do reach this point we have crossed a remarkable threshold – and will emerge into (the rare?) evolutionary status of having outlived the very life source that created us.

It’s natural selection on a Universal scale. “The Origin of the Aliens,” one could say; a survival of the fittest planets. Planets capable of evolving life intelligent enough to leave before the lights go out. I suppose that without a God, NASA is my anti-nihilism. Alone and on my laptop, these ideas can humble me into apathy. My sophomore year’s juxtaposition of “Galaxies and the Universe” with “Introduction to International Relations” made the latter seem laughably small in scale.

But I had this thought the other night. My instinct, of course, is to imagine us as one of many planets racing its evolution against its sun — merely one in the galactic Darwinian pursuit. But maybe we’re not. Maybe all this talk of the inevitability of aliens is garble and we’re miraculously, beautifully, alone in our biological success. What if we’re winning? What if we’re actually the most evolved intelligence in all this big bang chaos? What if other planets have bacteria and single celled genocides but nothing more?

The precedent is all the more pressing. Humans alone could be winning the race against our giant gas time bomb and running with the universal Olympic torch. What an honor. What a responsibility. What a gift we have been given to be born in an atmosphere with oxygen and carbon dioxide and millions of years and phenotypes cheering us on with recycles of energy.

I the thing is, I think we can make it. I think we can shove ourselves into space ships before things get too cold.

I only hope we don’t fuck things up before that. Because millions of years is a long time and I don’t want to let the universe down.

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