Of Time and Space: Lent in Casablanca, Night 20

One of my favorite follows on Twitter is Voyager 2. You may remember Voyager 2 for having, well, voyaged through our solar system. Periodically, Voyager 2 will tweet if it has a task to perform, such as aligning itself with the solar wind, but it doesn’t have much to do anymore, just cruise.

What fascinates me is the tweet Voyager 2 sends every day.  The most recent is this: @Voyager2: I am currently 13 hrs 10 mins 54 secs of light-travel time from Earth.

Thirteen hours, 10 minutes, and 54 seconds at the speed of light.  Light moves at a brisk 186,000 miles per second, or 671,000,000 miles an hour, so Voyager is a long damn way from here; most certainly Voyager’s roaming charges are ungodly.

One of the images I love from the movie “Contact,” was that beings on another world had just received our telecast of the Berlin Olympiad, and were beaming it back to us.

Somewhere, 70 light years from us, there’s a world whose only impression of us Earthlings is up to Casablanca.  They haven’t seen our first nuclear explosion.  They watched the First World War, and probably thought not even we could be stupid enough to do that again; I imagine their heads (or whatever) shaking.  Babe Ruth was still alive. Not only had Marilyn Monroe not made a film, she’d  never been photographed naked either.

I wonder what it would be like for Them, as they strolled with the camera into Rick’s Cafe Americain. They wouldn’t know that the Allies end up winning, and that Hitler’s majestic Reich crumbles into rubble.  They wouldn’t know that Humphrey Bogart will die weighing 80 lbs, his body ravaged with cancer from the alcohol and cigarettes Rick Blaine makes look so damn cool.

Seeing what they have of humanity up to Casablanca, I wonder if They’d bet on us ultimately succeeding. Could They have predicted the Cold War? The Designated Hitter rule in baseball, 9/11, and the smoking bans in cafes like Rick’s? The Internet, where maladjusted Crackers could huddle in their caves and forward screeds worldwide, all from a simple DorkFone? Could They imagine a starting rotation like the Phillies have this year?

Or would They see Casablanca as our “ultimate,” our climax as a human race? It was a place where good and evil coexisted. Nazis did their Nazi thing; the French and the ex-pats did theirs, then everybody got dressed-up and went to Rick’s to get drunk.

Maybe that was our climax as a human race. Maybe that was our peak, and everything since has been falling action and, now–as earthquakes, radiation, economic depression, and political upheaval shake the world–dénouement.

I suppose we could analyze the world like that,  imagining how somebody would who’d only seen Earth up to and including Casablanca. It would be a hell of a climax, and it doesn’t take too much creativity to see “everything after” through negative filters.

I’m cautiously optimistic, though. We’ve survived other crap–the Black Plague, The Great Depression, the Leisure Suit–and yet I see Shortstop & Princess, SeaBass & T-Bone, Violet & Sam, babies and fetuses and toddlers and Kindergartners who still find joy in life.

Since the dawn of Man, our species has been obsessing over “the end of the world.” When the sun or moon eclipsed a few thousand years ago, mankind thought, “well holy crap, the gods are pissed and let some monster eat the sun or moon!” Today, we marvel at beautiful eclipses, even if we no longer fear them.

The lesson of Casablanca is to move forward bravely. Laszlo moves forward. From safety, he’ll redouble his reisistance efforts. Rick moves forward: he puts Ilsa on the plane with Laszlo, and sends her off to safety, even as he and Louie set off on their own path. “We’ll always have Paris.” Yep, but Paris was another time. As Renault says–summing up my philosophy–“I shall take what comes.”

And if They don’t like it, They can change channels and watch “The Proxima Centauri Shore,” or some other planetary rubbish.


4 Responses to “Of Time and Space: Lent in Casablanca, Night 20”

  1. Excellent juxtaposition of two of my favorite things… space travel, science fiction and Casablanca. Wait that’s three things.

    I can only imagine how that little trickle of images and data has become such a torrent. Well, at least to us it’s a torrent. Maybe to them it’s still a trickle.

    • One thought that used to torment me was that every mistake I made in 23 years of radio will forever be sailing through the Universe, ad infinitum, secular secularum, etc. Voyager has something like a 3 watt transmitter; mine were 100,000 watts. This, Steve, is why I drank.

      Three weeks of this, and Casablanca is still my favorite movie. That says something. Thanks for stopping by.

      Oh! And have Penny add me on Facebook. 😛

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