Monday, 29 July 2013

One More Detail in "Earthman, Beware!"

I should have remembered this phrase before:

"...the solipsistic loneliness in which humans wandered from their births to the end of their brief meaningless lives."

(Poul Anderson, "Earthman, Beware!" IN Alight In The Void, New York, pp. 29-60 AT p. 56)

This is not Poul Anderson speaking. It is his stranded alien, Joel Weatherfield, momentarily disparaging humanity. In his better moments, Joel does see value, eg, in the life of his human friend, Peggy.

More importantly, we are not "solipsistic" because we genuinely communicate, and would not otherwise become self-conscious. Our lives require no external authority to bestow meaning on them. We value our existence and only conscious beings can value anything.

So our lives are brief - "brief" is a comparative term but, in comparison with many things, yes, they are brief - but they are far from meaningless and this should be affirmed because too casual a use of the term "meaningless" can only demoralize.  

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

And if Joel had not had his memories slightly edited by his people so he would not remember he was not truly an Earth human, my view is that he might in time have come to regard Earth humans with demonic contempt. That is, if he had continued to recall how his people refused to take him back because it was too late for him to "fit in," his greatly advanced IQ could not help but at least tempt him to regard the more primitive men of Earth with contempt. "Meaningless" would in fact be one of the MILDER terms Joel might have used.