Space has always been a source of fascination for humans. There’s this trope in essay writing called ‘the beginning of time essay’ where in order to emphasise the fundamental importance of something you call back to its historical significance. With Space though, it’s almost impossible to contemplate it without thinking about its enduring ever-presence. 


When we think of forever, I think we often think of the future. I will always love you, I’ll love you forever. We forget though that forever does not only refer to the future, forever is inclusive of the past. Space is, has been, and always will be. It is forever. Or at least as much of forever as our pea brains can handle. 


It’s that precise quality that makes space terrifying and appealing in equal measures. The fact that we are looking up at thousands of burning balls of gas that might already be dead by the time their light travels far enough for us to see. These stars are a guiding force for us in navigation, astrology, and spiritually. For Motley’s part, this month we are discussing Barbie in space,  we have a cosmic-themed photoshoot, and an interview with the one and only Bob Geldof discussing his attempts to be the first Irish person in space. 


I think a lot about the Voyager Golden Record. The Voyager Golden Record was a vinyl record which included images and sounds from life on earth to try and explain what it’s like here. It was launched in 1977 on two Voyager spacecrafts, neither of which are headed to any particular star but wandering for a space-faring civilization. On these records, there are diagrams of scientific and mathematical interest, music, 55 greetings in modern and ancient languages, human laughter, a human heartbeat, food, architecture, and anatomical representations of humans. This record has been described as launching a ‘bottle into the cosmic ocean of space’. It is the farthest travelled man-made object from earth. Beyond the sentimental aspect of sending a record out 40,000 light years away from us, I love the story of the Voyager Record because it includes the story of Blind Willie Johnson. I don’t mean to provide any spoilers, but you know if someone has ‘Blind’ in their name, you are buckling up for a tragedy. The record includes Beethoven and Mozart and Azerbaijani folk music. Blind Billie Johnson was chosen to join the ranks of these musicians for his song ‘Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground’. Johnson was born into a poor family of sharecroppers and is believed to have been blinded in an accident as a child. He spent his life in poverty, working as a gigging musician and wrote ‘Dark was the Night Cold was the Ground’ during the depression era. He died after contracting malaria and struggled to find a hospital that would treat him, presumably because he was black. His life was dogged by sadness. His song was selected for inclusion on the Voyager Record to represent the human emotion of loneliness. I don’t think in Johnson’s wildest dreams could he have conceived that his music; which so few people heard in his lifetime, would be selected to represent human civilization for thousands of years long after he was gone. Years after you and I are returned to dirt. It is unique that one small person with such an ordinary small life gets to represent the human race on a cosmic level. The record might never be found. It’s kind of a dumb idea when you think of it. It’s like throwing shit on a wall and seeing if it will stick except instead of walls it’s infinite expansiveness in every possible direction and instead of shit it’s two spaceships that you aggressively yeet 40 thousand light years away and hope they land. The odds are abysmal. But if on the off chance the ships do contact other life, the person these people will hear is not some hot shot billionaire or some monarch or some president. It’s Blind Willie Johnson. To me it’s a story about the value of making things, and sending it out there. Flinging shit and seeing what sticks.

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