A fond farewell
I’m writing a quick post to let you know that after today, I won’t be around.
I’m not moving, or getting a new job, or taking a “social media break”. I’m headed back to where I came from. Our enemy has declared war on us – again – and my family has been selected to deal with it this time. I’m not happy about it, but I don’t have a choice. It’s how things work where I’m from.
I suppose you’d like me to tell you where that is, and what it’s like to be there. But to be honest, your world is much more interesting than mine. Your biodiversity is richer, your civilizations more dynamic. A single trip into one of your dizzying, relentless cities brings a wealth of surprises both wonderful and terrifying. Our race avoids the unknown. It took ridiculous amounts of planning, reconditioning, and medication for me to be able to navigate a human lifetime.
I’ve spent the last several decades on your planet in the body of this human being – Brian – living a human life to learn about your world and how your race adapts. Because in case you weren’t aware, that’s your race’s greatest strength. You respond to change very quickly, even compared to other races in the universe we know of, and when you face catastrophe you bounce back from it with renewed vigor. Each one of your human life forms is a bright beacon of hope and possibility.
We, on the other hand, have been around a long time. We’ve evolved to the point where we’re unable to make big, sweeping changes anymore. We’re in a sort of social stasis. In contrast, our enemy is unpredictable and dangerous. Their life spans are ridiculously short, even by your standards, and when they die, they die excruciatingly painful deaths. It’s in their biology. It’s almost inhumane for them to create offspring, but they do it anyway, to feed the war machine. And they’re still evolving and finding new ways to wage war on us. Our technology is vastly superior to theirs, but that won’t help us in the long run. In several of your millennia the tables will turn.
When you live as long as we do, war is a tremendous disruptor. Your lives are fleeting, so you think nothing of sending your 19- and 20-year-olds into battles they’ll never return from. In a broader sense, your race is idealistic and impatient, and you’ll gladly throw your lives away to initiate change. I find that fascinating and tragic, and more than a little bit heroic, especially since I know more than you do the value of a life in this universe. For us, facing war is all tragic, and not at all fascinating or heroic. Before our enemy discovered how to navigate space-time and happened upon our homeworld we’d spent countless generations at peace. Giving our lives for something greater than ourselves is foreign to us, not because we’re a selfish race, but because we’ve never had to do it.
So my mission on your planet is being cut short, and I’ll be heading back to my home, leaving this body in a vegetative state. I’ll probably wander into the woods somewhere and leave it to decompose or get eaten by a bear. I’ve been trying to figure out how to inform the family I’ve created here of my departure. I haven’t known them very long, but even in the short time we’ve been together I’ve developed a genuine fondness for them. Must be human sentiment rubbing off on me.
Since I’ve got your attention anyway, I want to mention something. One of the things that surprises me most about humans is how damn correct you all think you are. After twenty or thirty years of life you form rock-solid beliefs about the way the universe operates – a universe you’ve never really seen – and are quick to fight with anyone who doesn’t agree with them. Take religion, for example. Many of you are utterly convinced there’s a god, and the rest of you are positive there is not. Neither is provable, at least not yet. Were I to give you an opaque box and tell you there was a nine of spades or a three of diamonds inside it, none of you would bet your life on which it is. But you develop absolute certainty about many things equipped with a similar lack of evidence. When someone calls you ignorant, you take it as a grievous insult, but it simply means you haven’t learned something yet. I’ve lived for many centuries and I’m as ignorant as they come. We all are. Once you realize we’re all a bunch of idiots, you’ll find you get along much better with the people you don’t understand. You think it’s exhausting work to spend a few hours reading a book to learn about another culture? I’m living one of your lifetimes to discover yours, and I’m still confused as hell.
If I survive the war I might be back, though that will be centuries from now and you’ll be dead by then. But maybe not? Your scientists are on the brink of discovering how to halt aging, and once that happens, you’ll have taken your first step on the same path my own people took a long, long time ago. You should probably start thinking about what foods will most efficiently sustain your race and where they’re going to come from. And you should be aware that in a universe full of life forms, many of them violent and unpredictable, the fact that some of you are a bit darker toned than others, or have different tastes in sexual partners, shouldn’t mean you can’t all work together to find happiness.
So long my friends. Thanks for all the sushi.