This evening I was idly daydreaming and remembered something from childhood: a firm belief in life on other planets, even possible on those within our solar system.
The combination of Star Trek, faithful attendance to church, and science fiction books led the young me to question the definition of life. Scientists insisted that life could not be sustained on the other planets within this system, and expressed great doubt that life might be found elsewhere. I found this a rather arrogant conclusion based on an assumption that we understand life. As a novice theologian, I found it impossible to believe that humans could understand life.
Certainly there is little argument that we understand the requirements to sustain Homo sapiens sapien, and the forms of life we observe on Earth. We know the proportions of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen that are conducive to sustaining these species. We have a basic comprehension of nutritional and psychological requirements that define the healthy state of being for these species. We have dissected the human form and catalogued the organs; we have mapped the human genome and have a rudimentary grasp of heritary anomalies antithetical to health.
With this paltry bank of knowledge, many have extrapolated and boldly stated that life is what we see on Earth and no where else; that life is impossible outside of these confines, and that we are the superior and lonely species capable of understanding and granting life.
When I was a teenager and discovered Robert Heinlein, I found a co-conspirator. Here was someone who understood a broader definition of life. And soon I found that I had a place in the universe with the kids who could grok that. Though I didn’t study physics, I spent many lunch hours in that lab reading, listening, watching as my new cohort explained and explored our corner of the universe. I found this thrilling.
But then I discovered boys, and dating. I discovered that the cute boys thought the girls who talked about alien life forms on Venus were rather crazy – and not in a hot sort of way. So like my paper dolls and building blocks, like my footed pajamas and Dr. Seuss books I left behind these things, to become the stuff of nostalgia.