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Hope of My Fathers

My mind takes weird passage ways. I was reading the text portion of The Segovia Scales this morning as I intend to add them to my guitar practice. I learned about this from Rick Beato’s video about auditioning for college as a guitar player. I listened to it on my commute and decided to find the pieces he talked about in his second audition. I figured maybe adding one to my guitar practice would be fun and educational.

Once I started looking into audition pieces for guitar it was inevitable I’d run into Bach’s Bourrée in E minor. This lead to the Jethro Tull version and then Son of a Bach. However, there is always one end point for me and Bach. Not just a specific piece but a specific performance.

However, that is not the most significant performance of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2. The most significant exists on a series of gold platters. It might be the first music of Earth heard by someone not from Earth or her children. I cannot listen to the piece without thinking about that fact. It is one of the greatest acts of hope humanity has ever undertaken.

It was even seen as an act of hope in the epitome of 90s paranoia. In the season two opening episode of The X-Files Bach’s piece provides an opportunity to discuss the physical record. This segues to the Arecibo message and leads to Mulder going to Arecibo. The record’s greetings and the Bach are later captured in playback by the radio telescope. In a show about millennialism expressed via UFOs and government conspiracies it was a moment of hope.

My generation, however, has not inherited the hope of our fathers who sent this message on golden paper in a hexagonal bottle powered by decaying plutonium. The odds of either spacecraft being found is infinitesimally small. The spacecraft’s widest dimension is 3.7m on the high gain antenna. By contract the Moon at its closest is 362,600,000 meters from Earth. An object one hundred million times smaller would need to be found in the distance between the stars. The closest start is Proxima Centauri a mere 40,000,000,000,000,000 meters away. Planning for someone to find the spacecraft is hope beyond hope.

Yet our fathers had such hope. They had such hope because they believed in themselves and the world they were building. They did not think it perfect. Carl Sagan, a major force behind the Voyager Golden Records and their predecessor plaques on Pioneer 10 and 11, was in the same time period a strong social critic. However, he believed in a better future and that the culture which built the Voyager craft was the cultural that would lead the way to that better future.

Few in my generation believe that we are building a better future. In fact, the culture our fathers believed was building a better world is blamed by mine, and ones after, for destroying the climate, elevating whites above all others, oppressing women, and other social ills. We have no hope for the future except to destroy our inheritance so the world will be safe from the West.

Perhaps those arguing the West is guilty and must be destroyed are right, but what does safe from the West mean? It means no effort to find a place among the stars, at least not until every single problem here is one-hundred percent solved including hate and poverty. Given the hatred expressed by anti-hate activists I doubt the former can be solved by mere humans. On the latter, the words of a very wise man, the poor will always be with you gives little hope. A spirit aimed inwards and towards perfection before looking out cannot build ships with golden records or even search for the records made by others. I am not even sure it can recognize the importance of a gold record given by others if it was handed to them.

Even those of us who don’t share the above view of the West seem to have lost hope. Some are retreating into a Western, Christian, White, or some combination of those, tribalism reflecting the indictment of the West with a dark mirror. Those of us who have not taken that route often subcumb to hopelessness in the face of these twin rejections of the world our fathers inherited and made.

My friend Sarah Hoyt loves to say build under, build over, build around for in the end we win.. She has the hope of my fathers. I need to learn it again.

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