Letter to Marble 3
To our excellent friends of Marble 3: Congratulations on decoding this message from the cosmic microwave background radiation. You must be getting very clever. Don’t ask why it’s written in your languages – give us some credit. We’re gone now, but we’ve left this message behind for when you’re ready to hear it. There are 6 more messages hidden here and there, under things and over things in the universe, and you’ll find them when you’re a little smarter and wiser than today. None of the messages contain any recipes for technology. This is just an invitation – to you and your descendants. So, first, a little about ourselves. We hail from a very distant place and a very distant time. We do not have tentacles. Our skin is not green. We have passed through the many stages of planetary ascendance, and we’re off now, on our next adventure. But before we go, there are a few things we would like to convey to you – our excellent friends of Marble 3. Hi, how’s it going? How’s the weather? Presumably, you now have agriculture and civilization, yes? How’s that working out? Is everybody well-fed? If not, why not? Are you held hostage to weapons you built yourself? If so… Why? Don’t feel so special. Biology differs from marble to marble, but the squabbles are always the same: “Hey, give my toy back”.
*Thump* A very long time from now you’ll realize you had the materials to build heaven all along – you just lacked the blueprint, and if we gave it to you now, you would only build hell. You’ll work it out. We predict you have simple spacecraft – congratulations. We predict you have simple doomsday weapons – commiserations. We predict you’re not yet clever enough to realize just how silly you are. Such is it always with teenagers… Perhaps you’ve had a good look around to the black, and noticed just how quiet it is out there. You’re probably flirting with the idea you’re alone in space. Don’t be so rash. What does an insect on your marble know about your cities? What do you think you know about the universe? Baby steps. And just as some insects climb great towers and look up, recently you’ve discovered the true scale of things – or, let’s say, some of it. Maybe you’ve wondered: “How is it possible the world is so big and so indifferent?” It’s neither – but again, baby steps. Feel free to grow into the galaxy when you’re ready. We’ve left a few treats here and there along the way. When you claim your thousandth sun – think back to your first, and how you once believed it was alive. Don’t be so sure some of the others aren’t. And please, avoid living near the big red ones – it’s way more hassle than it’s worth. Have you found the great black at the bottom of everything? In return for the powers of adulthood, one surrenders the comforts of infancy. Maybe that seems like a curse, but it’s a blessing, really. You control your own destiny now. You always did, anyway. You will watch sunsets on distant worlds, you will construct a few suns of your own. You will learn to hear the music of the spheres, and one day to play it yourself. You will gain access to tremendous energies, you will be denied access to some of your wildest scientific fantasies. Nature’s imagination is better than yours, and she is under no obligation to make herself comprehensible. As a rule, the great extinctions of other civilisations have not been due to cosmic events, but the civilizations themselves. You might only be a teenager, but many of your planetary cousins died much earlier still, and many never even achieved your simple level of sophistication. There are seven stages of planetary transition, as far as we know. You are currently passing through stage 2. Stage 2 is one of the most deadly. You are waking up to your technological capabilities – transformative and destructive; you have dared to position yourself as the smartest thing that ever was – and, naturally, that scares you. As your development continues, you will discover deadlier and deadlier weapons. You will attempt to fix the world, and break it horribly many times. You will wander blindly into the universe’s libraries – all hubris, all certainty – and barely be out the door before you realize you didn’t understand a damn thing you read. We were young once, too. We ran about turning every rock over, and before we’d even seen what was underneath, we were already picking the rocks up and bashing each other with them. But at some point we all sat down together to just admire the beach. Every civilization is entirely unique. You are the only marble with you on it. And if you blow the whole thing to hell now, a thing like you will never happen again for all of time and back. If you succeed, you will do it alone, and one day you’ll be proud of that. You’re going to have to explore the jungles map-less. You’re gonna have to guard your own crib and wipe your own tears. There are only a handful of ways to save the world. There are a trillion ways to end it. Our history is very different to yours, but our futures aren’t so dissimilar. We can no more explain the true shape of things to you than you could explain algebra to one of your animal friends, but just know that if everything goes well, a long time from now you will stop at the top of the hill for lunch and look back down at how far you’ve come, and it WILL have been worth it. This has been an invitation. We know you won’t make it to the party for a long time yet, but when you do, it will be an honor to welcome you into the warm. And the next adventure we’ll embark on together: as friends, as equals, as cousins with the universe in common, bound for the open road. Be proud: you’ve come such a long way. Be careful: there is so much further to go. Until we speak again, then – far from here, and long from now. To our excellent friends of Marble 3. With love, and admiration, and the best wishes on your long journey. We’ll see you when you get here.
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