Momento-Mori Humanity: An Ode to Terra Two, by Adam James Smith


 Can we save the child who sings?

‘Twinkle twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are’?


Witness the tiny human face,

shrouded in starlight,

And wonder less about the twinkling star–

Wonder what it is we are.


Are we flesh and bone?

Or meat?

Are we fragile,

biodegradable vessels,

into which we are decanted at birth,

before slowly wearing to dust?

Are we slowly rotting meat-suits

shuffling between work and home?


Or, are we gaslight?

Flickering amidst a collision of

neurons and chemicals,

generating: thought, memory, actions?

That happy accident we sometimes call personality?


Or are we conduits of culture?


Imagine starlight glinting

off a tiny, shining surface.

A speck of glass, catching the light

of stars long since dead.

Blinking in the vast blackness of space.


10 billion miles from Earth

NASA’s Voyager 2 fires thrusters;

leaving our solar system.

Bound for interstellar space.



It is predicted that she will,


be drawn into the Sirius star system.

The constellation Canis Major.


Sirius: the brightest star of our own Terran nightscape.

Sirius: a family of giant planets.



Voyager 2 arrives in Sirius

humanity will have been dead for eons.


Voyager 2 is fitted with a gold-plated disk.

She carries photos of Earth: Science, Life-forms.

She carries greetings in 55 different languages.

She carries ‘the sounds of earth’:

A whale singing,

A baby crying,

Waves crashing on a pebbled beach,

And the music of Mozart, Blind Willie Johnson and Chuck Berry.


When this disk is played it will be as the momento-mori

remains of a civilisation long dead.



But the disk exists.

The disk persists.


We are more than merely matter.

We are more than meat.

We are ideas. We are culture.

We are language. We are stories.


Whilst Voyager 2 is out there we live on,

adrift amidst the sublime oceans of interstellar space.

Voyager 2 is us: A tiny drop of humanity alone in the dark.


To save the child,

Do not build an Ark.

Build an Archive:

A repository of culture.

Save who and what we are.


Prove that words matter.

Save our stories.




Adam J Smith Staff Photo

Dr Adam James Smith is a Lecturer in Literature at York St John University. His research explores the historic role of ephemeral print culture in articulating and negotiating the the relationship between citizen and state, usually in an eighteenth-century context. Adam also often strays into the field of science fiction. In 2017, he contributed an academic essay on the The X-Files to a new critical collation of SF and procedural drama and in 2018 his first play, The Third Figure (a dark SF comedy) was performed at the York Theatre Royal.


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