Humanity is a complex thing.
We can be cruel, harsh, and close-minded. We can live in fear for that which is different — people, places, and technology. There is much that is dark and depressing about humanity.
That is not all we are.
And as writers? We do our best work when we explore the darkness that lies within and expose it to the light. When we seek out the good, the bright, and the very hope that we are all born to hold within ourselves.
Honoring the Mars rover, Opportunity
Fifteen years ago, in July of 2003, we sent two small rovers 127 million miles from home to explore Mars for us.
Their names? Spirit and Opportunity.
Intended for a 90-day mission that we hoped would go longer, Spirit lasted over 6 years before a sand trap took them from us.
Carrying on with sampling, photographing, and collecting data without its twin for a total of nearly 15 YEARS, was Opportunity. We lost contact with them in June 2018 during a massive dust storm that covered the entire planet for a month longer than any previous storm Opportunity had yet weathered.
Its final message?
“My battery is low, and it’s getting dark.”Opportunity (Mars rover)
We’ve been trying for months to reestablish contact, hoping the winds would clear the dust deposited by the storm from its solar arrays, afraid even the hibernation power was too much and the battery was drained too far to come back.
On February 13, 2019, NASA declared Opportunity‘s mission at an end.
On one hand, I feel incredible sadness. Leaving a robot — hungry, alone, in the dark, so far from home?
On the other? Opportunity is a testament to humanity. Like their twin, called Spirit, and younger sibling, Curiosity, they were named for the greater parts of us. Spirit, Curiosity, and the willingness to seize an Opportunity.
We might have hoped for 9 months, but Opportunity traveled further than a marathon runner on their own little wheels, crossing Mars’s surface for us.
The Little Rover That Could.
Faith In Humanity – Tumblr Edition
I don’t think I’ve ever quoted Tumblr on this blog, before, but Opportunity and their siblings are worth it.
These two quotes from Tumblr brought me the comfort I never imagined I would need, after the loss of Opportunity.
No guys you don’t understand.
“…This isn’t a sad story, this is a happy story about the ridiculousness of humans and the way we love things. We built a little robot and called it Curiosity and flung it into the stars to go and explore places we can’t get to because it’s name is in our nature and then just because we could, we taught it how to sing.
That’s not sad, that’s awesome.
“… maybe in a hundred years we won’t be around any more … but we built robots, who have beat-up hulls and metal brains, and who have names; and if the other people come and say, who were these people? what were they like?
the robots can say, when they made us, they called us discovery; they called us curiosity; they called us explorer; they called us spirit. they must have thought that was important.
and they told us to tell you hello.”
Imbuing Your Writing With The Best Of Humanity
Curiosity is the ability for a writer (or their characters) to wonder. To think, what-if? Curiosity makes them want to explore. Makes them wonder why things are the way they are and if there’s a way to change them. Curiosity makes them want to know how things work.
Spirit is the energy and motivation to find out. You can wonder all you want, but without spirit, the questions will remain unanswered in your head.
And opportunity? That’s when spirit, curiosity, and timing match up. You can have all the spirit and curiosity about the stars above, but without access to telescopes and science, it’s hard to learn more about them. You can wonder all you want about the fairy world, but unless you find a door, you’ll never get the opportunity to explore.
Opportunity and spirit can take your characters, (and the rest of us), far beyond their abilities and their plans, to a point where they can achieve so much more than they ever dreamed possible.
How do you incorporate humanity in your writing?
Do you focus on the negatives?
Or do you allow the best of us to peek through the darkness and shine a beacon of hope?
If you’re a reader, which part speaks strongest to you?