Why go to the stars?
Because we are the descendants of those primates who chose to look over the next hill.
Because we won’t survive here indefinitely.
Because the stars are there, beckoning with fresh horizons.
— James and Gregory Benford
I don’t remember the last time I saw the stars. It’s not possible. The lights that shine throughout the night all over the prison prevent that from happening — one of the side effects of being locked up. I don’t know why the hell I care so much about seeing the stars. I just do. Maybe my time in prison has become a sentimental cliche, but they say that the clichés are clichés because they happen to be true. For my moment of longing here is the cliché: It often the little things you miss the most when you go to prison.
The stars can’t help but make me think about what is beyond these prison walls — far beyond. According to Astronomy Magazine’s October 2020 issue, “a new study estimates that, based on the time it took for intelligent life to develop on Earth, more than 30 other intelligent communicating civilizations may exist in the Milky Way Galaxy.”
I often wonder what an alien species would think of us if they came to our planet and watched us from their spaceships (if they’re not already here, if you believe History Channel’s “Ancient Aliens”). Would they find us intelligent or fucked in the head? It’s an impossible question to answer considering we don’t know what they would consider intelligent, and that’s even if they do what we consider thinking at all. Maybe they’re just too busy trying to survive in their own corners of the galaxy to care what happens in ours.
I guess what I like about space is that it’s ultimate freedom, even if the interior of the craft that takes you there resembles a less punitive prison cell. The walls would be a horrible bland white like the original Apple ipod, not to mention having to deal with one or two fellow passenger’s incessant farting. Remember the air is recycled, so you may have to suck in the remnants of those farts for the entire journey. But that aside there’s just so much to see: The moons of Jupiter as they skim above the swirling gas below… The billions of lonely rogue planets as they wander through the galaxy, unbound by any star…The glowing gas and dust of nebulae as they birth new suns. There’s no end to the fun, provided you pack enough Beano.
Someone wiser than me once said that, “When it’s dark enough, you can see the stars.” It’s not yet dark enough for me to see them. But I dream of them.
And that must do.
To contact me by mail:
Joshua Wood #1189105
Buckingham Correctional Center
PO Box 430
Dillwyn, VA 23936
Please check out Virginia DOC’s policies regarding mail on their website before sending a letter. They can be very particular.
You can also use the name and state number above to contact me through email via jpay.
Categories: Joshua Wood