Childhood’s End

One of my favorite books is ‘Childhood’s End’ by Arthur C. Clark. I read it first when I was in school – a long time ago. The theme has stayed with me ever since and every now and then I dig out my tattered copy and just go over the good parts again. I found my original copy again after a gap of several years when I was cleaning out this room and sat down with it. Its still as good as it was when I first read it.

I love the idea that the human race is being watched to see if we would make it. That other races around the universe too were or are being watched and if we cross some crucial threshold ensuring our eventual survival, we would be welcomed into the galactic fraternity. But only if we first survive our own attempts to destroy ourselves. Sometimes I feel we are capable of towing the line and reaching that point when we actually deserve recognition as a galactic race while at other times I see the madness around me and feel that we are still just monkeys abusing the capabilities of our opposing thumbs. Maybe even worse since you won’t find monkeys hell bent on destroying themselves. The human race is its own biggest enemy.

Out of the tones of sci-fi I’ve read, this one actually makes enough sense to be possible. Leaving aside all the conspiracy theories that aliens already live amongst us, intelligent species could be watching us (from a distance) and waiting. Should we all destroy ourselves, they will just pack their bags and go home and should we show enough intelligence to realize what is good for us and make it happen, they may reveal themselves on their own.

Another interesting concept from the book is about shockwaves from the future reaching back to us through time and forming the themes of our myths and legends. How cool is that? The implication that some of our most resilient concepts are actually misinterpreted racial memories which occur in the future. Mainly the biblical concept of the devil. Clarke’s imagination is mind-boggling to say the least.

While I don’t believe in the possibility of an Overmind or Overlords, I do think that some sort of metaphysical evolution is possible for the human race. After all, the universe is so full of lethal environments and distances for the human body that for us to understand and express it, we must evolve radically to higher planes of existence from the confines of matter. And since the universe is here and so are we, it is ours if we can take it. Sounds better to me than some of the other reasons for existence brandied about here and there. This one actually has the reason and the purpose. And if someone has to do it, why not us.

The ending is disturbing but not necessarily prophetic. It could also be a smooth transition instead of the radical one in the book. An evolution where both types of human beings can coexist without the need of any damage. While that idea may not be as dramatic as the book’s version it is one that I can certainly live with. A slow gradual merger from the physical to the higher planes; maybe over a few millennia. The transition need not be painful for anyone, we could all enjoy the ride. And if we do end up finding an Overmind, it would most likely be a much more pleasant experience for everyone.

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