Adversity and the upward spiral in “Flight in a Cage”
My friend Ben is writing a novel. He is seven chapters in (although he is considering shortening it) and it pains me that I can’t share them with anyone. It is also painful to have to wait for an author to write each chapter as I want so much to follow the adventure. The novel is about the adventure I yearn for. The adventure of setting out with Life toward other suns. The novel drives the adventure with the motivation that I find so inspiring. Commonly, fiction drives interstellar adventure with a desperate search for a place to survive. Instead here we find characters driven by the beauty of the fruit of such a journey; the spreading of Life to a trillion barren worlds.
Yet the story is more complicated than that. There are characters with all different motivations. Those who seek survival in the face of persecution. Those who care more about human history and myth than the Great Story of Life in the Universe. Those who fear difference and diversity. Those who worship technology. Those who desire money and power. Those who desire only safety and freedom from fear. Through all of these differently motivated and conflicting characters and their interactions, the story pushes forth Life toward the stars. I love the way that the story uses common enemies as a catalyst for alliance, repurposing adversity toward the emergence of allies. Without enemies there is no motivation for alliance and no possibility for the greater accomplishment that alliance brings.
It reminds me of trees, able to grow taller because of buttress roots that grow in reaction to the adversity of wind. It reminds me of fire which destroys diversity and then opens small patches of forests to new growth, increasing overall diversity. It reminds me of predators which push prey into developing defenses, maybe armour, which also becomes structure and allow for bigger, more powerful animals. It reminds me of creatures falling from trees to their deaths, pushing the adaptation of gliding membranes, and then wings emerging and resulting in true flight. The cycle is adversity, adaptation, repurposing of adaptation to new abilities, creating new adversities for other species. This cycle repeats and drives Life continuously out of one cage and into another. But each cage is different and each new cage provides the opportunity to escape into yet more cages in an upward spiral of ever growing possibilities.