The aliens evolved and as they evolved their technology became so advanced that it became unrecognizable to us as technology. It had passed into another realm. The aliens lived on earth with us but we didn’t know it. Their super-advanced technology had the appearance of everyday unremarkable things, things that you would never look at twice. Their technology might take on the appearance of a chipped saucer in the cupboard, or an old cushion on a chair, or perhaps a dead fly on the windowsill. We never give these items a second look and yet they represent a technological flowering so far in advance of our own that we have no chance of ever understanding anything of their capabilities. We’re not even looking, anyway. We don’t care. We’re not thinking in the right way to even begin to understand what arcane possibilities these technologies can unlock. The alien technology may appear to us as an old battered football and so we will kick it haphazardly around the yard. Little realizing as we do so the incongruity of it all. Little realizing the magnitude of our folly. And after the aliens came the elves but we never saw them either because they existed in another dimension.
Self-sabotage is a funny thing, isn’t it. What’s it all about, I often ask myself. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic. Or maybe it isn’t tragic, maybe it only seems so. Maybe it’s merely ironic. Life is rich in irony, if only we could spot it. But we’re far too prosaic in our outlook – we never see anything of what is really going on. If we weren’t self-sabotaging all the time we too would be like the aliens or the elves. We’d be like gods – we’d live in a world without boundaries, a world containing complexity beyond measure. Complexity within complexity, nuance within nuance. Instead of course all we do is limit ourselves in the most savage way imaginable. We undermine ourselves in everything we do – we specialize in tripping ourselves up. Somehow, we just never give ourselves a break. We never let ourselves get beyond a certain point, even though every part of us, every cell and every sinew of our body yearns to reach out splendidly and transcend the filthy nonsense of our mundane mechanical lives. So what do you call this? What’s our game? Why do we do it? Will we never know what we could become?
The alien technology is so baroque, so arcane as to be completely unrecognizable to us as such. Our own technologies reflect the appalling crassness of our appetites – the selfie-stick and the gun. Our own crude technologies serve only one purpose and that is to limit us. They have their various overt functions, but this is only a disguise for the true function, which is to stop us evolving. We delight in imprisoning ourselves with our own devices; we delight in thwarting ourselves at every opportunity. We are capable of the most extraordinary efforts, the most extraordinary feats, just so long as what we are doing isn’t actually ever going to result in any meaningful change. So it is with us human beings. Such is the perversity of our nature.
It’s not just that the aliens have left us behind in their splendid evolutionary flight – they have become utterly incomprehensible to us. They have become so incomprehensible that their sublime technology has become our everyday garbage. We throw it out into the street on a daily basis. We walk by marvels every day, kicking it out of our way so that we can pursue our pointless obsessions. We thrust marvels out of our way on a regular basis so that we can get on with the mind-numbingly squalid business of our lives. We human beings are such weird and curious creatures, aren’t we? We specialize in promoting the most uninteresting of things. We put all of our energy and ingenuity into the never-ending task of turning silk purses into sow’s ears. We delight in this self-imposed task of ours – we embrace it with undimmed eagerness with the dawn of every new day. Each new day represents a fresh opportunity for us to obsess over the most squalidly uninteresting nonsense – for all the world as if some great good was going to come out of it. And we pretend the whole time. We pretend that we actually enjoy what we’re doing; we pretend that we are actually feeling good about it. And sometimes we even manage to believe this….
Art: Patrick Woodroffe