Saturday, January 18, 2020
Been thinking a lot lately. It’s kind of a curse, but I knew what I was getting myself into when the salesman showed me my pre-birth possibilities. I simply could not pass on HUMAN. Sure, it was WAY out of my budget, but how can you pass up on an optical system designed to detect ripe fruit, the movement of snakes, and the position of stars. How can you say no to a multi-layered nervous system engineered to sustain a bleeding edge blend of reptilian, mammalian, primate, and post-primate processing? Damn thing nearly drives itself! Sure, sometimes it drives into an early grave, or a series of spectacularly, fantastically bad choices when left on autopilot too long, but that’s the thrill of the ride. Repair and maintenance costs aside, the full package really got my engine revving. Then Bob showed me the mysteries, complexities, and (ahem) hypnotizing curves of the model I would be compatible with. Good golly Miss Molly, I couldn’t sign the papers fast enough! Practically threw my check book at the old boy. Great salesman, that Bob. Swell guy. Top notch. What am I saying, of course you know! You picked human, too. How’s your model working out?
Back to thinking.
Below is an image.
Before you ask, it is ROM the Spaceknight. A toy hero turned comic hero created by Richard C. Levy, Bryan L. McCo, and Scott Dankman, per Wikipedia, and sold to Parker Brothers. ROM is interesting. Here’s a commercial.
Built to fight an enemy that can trick the senses, replace trusted friends, and rain destruction without warning. It’s as if the message is, we must be on guard for threats around us that don’t resemble threats. And to do so requires a means, let’s call it a combination of experience and wisdom, to see past the surface. How else do you build an Analyzer without the knowledge of knowing what to look for?
But I digress. Back to the picture. What do you see? Literally. Now, what do you see figuratively? Metaphorically? Archetypically? Psychologically? I’m not suggesting the artist tried to craft a multilayered image. Maybe they were, but nothing online confirms that. Odds are they were simply meeting a deadline, had an idea about the next slice of the plot, and needed to get this done before moving onto the next project. All the while, hoping the check shows up soon. However, we get our ideas from somewhere, don’t we? Yes, we do. Humans are built, and you may want to sit down for this, for the wilds. We’re built for surviving in an environment without power or grocery stores. We’re built to be part of a group, a family, a clan, a tribe, a city, a state, a nation. We are built to exist with and around people more than things. Things are a means to a human end. I know what some are thinking: “Sam. I like to be alone.” Maybe you do. Maybe you have your valid reasons and it suits you. Or maybe you’re just hiding. I don’t know. I bet you do. But you aren’t really alone, are you? Do you make the power flowing into your outlets? The food on the grocery store shelves? The clothes on your back? The movies and shows playing on your favorite streaming service? Nope. You rely on FAITH that the other humans of the larger group you belong to are predictable enough, similar to you enough, to keep the lights on, the plants tended to, the looms moving, and the cameras recording. That’s a lot of trust invested. No wonder our minds are tuned to recognize emotion so quickly. We need to know what the other humans are doing to predict what will happen next.
Buttressed by this abbreviated example of how you and I are interconnected, regardless of our desired level of proximity, let’s glide over to the next point and the picture. We’re connected because we’re human. We have minds molded by forces far, far older than the modern world. Forces we shared up to the not so distant past, given the youth of our species. The need for safety, food, sex, and shelter from deadly predators hunting in the dark. The need of holding value in the eyes of others and companionship, which in turn meant a greater likelihood of securing the first four I mentioned. Enter ROM. A group locked into a loop of ‘need satisfaction’ can last a very long time in a static system, but it will quickly crumble and die when faced with a threat or change to that system. Imagine a machine that gathers materials from a set point to use to make more machines. Those new machines, in turn, also gather materials from the same set point to continue the cycle. Now move the set point. Without growing or adapting, without knowing HOW to grow and adapt, the machines stop working and collapse. That’s the inevitable doom of no one leaving the loop. To be clear, most large changes to the loop (like moving a set point) is as much of a threat as a smart, hungry dragon settling into a cave outside your village. Nature isn’t good or evil, but it’s a cold killer nevertheless. So, what is the name humans give these individuals who travel far from home, learn, suffer, fail, try again, and ultimately return transformed into something new to enlighten their people and defeat the threat? Say it with me: HERO. Ideally, that HERO will then mentor others, perhaps even other new heroes, to refresh the upward, post-animal cycle.
Behold an infant teetering on unsteady legs after yet another bumpy fall, lifting itself from the ground and into a new world of exploration and greater independence. Later, an adolescent grapples with the mental and physical wonders of a raging biological fire burning away its childhood form to open, for the second time in perhaps as little as a decade, another new realm to navigate. This ought to sound familiar. It is your past, in case you forgot. Rom’s life followed the same path on his utopian (perpetual childhood?) home world until an outside force threatened to destroy it. He then volunteers to leave behind his life of comfort for a new, unfamiliar one of struggle and responsibility. It costs him all the physical comforts he ever knew. His mind and nervous system, the only means of knowing existence, are placed into an armed exoskeleton hardened for combat. He must learn this new way of living or perish. The trade-off? Clad in Bio-Armor, he can now sore through the scorching heat of atmospheric friction to lift himself form the gravity well of his planet to sail amongst the stars. He can see through the deceptions of the Dire Wraiths and rally powerful tools to one day restore peace.
Brevity compels me to bring this to a conclusion, gentle reader. The length of a work is no guarantee of impact or importance. I’ve said nothing you don’t already know. That’s not self-deprecating humor or taking the easy way out. I’m talking concretely about matters (See what I did there? The linguists do.) and symbols created by YOUR human mind because Claw and Tooth and Hunger and Disease walked with us for millennia. They still do, lest we forget. Science wouldn’t exist if so many things weren’t hell bent on killing us hairless, pink things for so long. Consider that for a moment. Really consider that. Then consider this. Why is Female considered a creative and/or destructive aspect around the globe? Why is Male considered an orderly and/or tyrannical aspect? Why did Rom need to leave utopia in order to become strong and wise? Shiva wants to know. Odin the All Father wants to know. Glooscap wants to know. Akna wants to know. Lots of old deities and heroes have been poking around lately asking very uncomfortable questions. A few even asked for your cell number. I didn’t give it out, not to worry. It seemed like they were only trying to figure themselves out, but I didn’t take any chances. Maybe they just want to know what to do next. Maybe they only want to know what is best for them. And you. Damned if I know, but you might, though. YOU might have the answers for gods and humans.
Blaze it across the sky, if you do. We’d appreciate it. Then brace yourself for pushback. Some humans don’t like being told what to do. Some don’t stay in the loop.