The Kind Folks on Titan
Planet Titan, Year 2070
… Hello? Can you hear me? This is my first live transmission… I know how it works, but I am not sure if it works… Hm, let me adjust a few things… Ok. That should work.
Wow, this is my first time communicating with people live in, I guess, four months? Or, really 3 years… I just woke up from my stasis a few months ago and am getting close to what we on Earth consider Titan, a planet we call Saturn’s moon. There are several others of us out here, but we have not had the chance to connect just yet… people are waking up in their own time.
Some context – It is 2070, but I left Earth in 2054. I was part of an exchange program with the kind folks – things? – on Titan. In 2048, we discovered a ‘weird molecule’ – cyclopropenylidene – that pointed to early signs of life. Then, we didn’t know half of it.
Not long after the discovery of this ‘weird molecule,’ a mutual aid group in New Brooklyn got a garbled email message.
It did not take long for them to figure out the message, though. It was a ping from Titan. Turns out, they were looking for life on Earth as well. They found a way to get in touch, and they reached out to mutual aid networks across the planet. They assumed these were the functioning global governments at the time.
From there, things happened fast. First, they materialized cures for diseases that have plagued people on Earth for centuries . Their medicine resembled a much more advanced version of our fledgling gene-editing software. Along with these cures, they introduced us to a much more advanced mode of existence in general. They showed us ways to exist and think beyond our bodies… to be post-human is how we put it. To live well is how they put it.
The reason they reached out to mutual aid networks first is because that’s how they work… They take genes, but they freely give genes. The entire process is reversible as well. You can take some genes to take on whatever characteristic… For this trip, for example, I took on the genes of a sansevieria plant, allowing me to breathe through them for oxygen, absorbing nutrients from the distant sun. The sansevieria gets my carbon. We exist symbiotically.
They showed us a new way of living. It is my understanding that folks volunteered pretty quickly for the gene-editing therapies. When I was preparing to leave, the climate was already changing for the better… people could feel the planet differently for the first time… it was such a beautiful few months.
They gave us so much in such a short amount of time. But, they reached out for a reason. In the same way we noticed cyclopropenylidene in their atmosphere, they were able to read traces of what they were calling, or at least what we were translating as, ‘symbiotic information block chains.’ It took lots of back and forth to finally come to terms with what they meant… storytelling.
They could read it in our atmosphere; it left traces they were able to pick up. They were in awe that every single thing on Earth emitted storytelling… They were drawn to our ability to make meaning, how our way of making meaning is entirely relational. We create each other. To them, this reciprocal way of communicating – of existence really – was a lost link… something they were missing.
[cat sound] – Hey, Toe!
They were more than happy to help us, but they wanted to learn about storytelling. They sent us tools and resources to visit them, to share with them. A ‘deal’ – though I hate to call it that – was brokered between Earth and Titan. Earth would send some of its best storytellers to visit Titan for a while, on loan… like a giant intergalactic living library.
So, to you all, I have only a few comments… some reflections that I had from my lifepod. First, I hope things are going well there. It seems like things are better than ever. Second, as of 2054 when I left the planet, we were finally figuring out the real weight of what it meant to create meaning relationally, to understand what a gift it was that none of our ideas – human and non-human – existed in isolation. That anything and everything we ever were, are, and will be is caught in a tangible, complex web of story… something we always took for granted… but something that the folks on Titan see as a missing link towards intergalactic cooperation. It turns out, we had this powerful tool – a way of not only imagining but creating, building, seeing… at our fingertips the whole time. It just took someone from the outside to point it out for us. So, if you’re listening to this, know that everything – every word, thought, symbol – builds a bridge between human and non-human worlds.