‘They’ve found another planet with people on it. It was on the tellie.’
‘Were you watching Star Trek, Mum?’
‘No. It was on the news. Wasn’t it, Barry? They found a planet like this one. With people.’
Dad nods. It’s the safest option.
‘But we can’t go there.’ She says, disappointedly. ‘It’s too far away. We wouldn’t live long enough.’
This type of conversation is normal for a family like ours; with a mother that calls one up at work (please only ring if it’s urgent) to report that she’s saved a mouse from drowning in the down-pipe outlet: He was swimming for his life! Are you coming to dinner later? But, in recent months, it’s been lacking; brain tumours having a tendency to impede the ability, or desire to, ponder life, the universe and small mammals. Mum’s musings are a sign that the sorcery of radiotherapy has been somewhat successful. We’ve started 2015 far happier than we’d dared hope.
I suggested Mum might have seen a news item about the discovery of a Goldilocks planet – where conditions appear right for life. Water, oxygen, right sort of temperature and so forth. ‘Why do they assume other life forms would need water, or oxygen?’ asks Dad.
Gladdens my heart that we are once again enjoying such diversions. Maybe this is what primed me to study philosophy; being raised in a family that valued questions above answers. A family of curious monkeys that didn’t automatically accept things as irrefutable truths.
We went on to consider what form carbon or silicon life forms might take, discussed visionary sci-fi writers, and pondered how aliens might react when they first encountered us. Would they secretly observe? Would they be appalled by our destruction of one another, of other species and our own home? Would they shake their appendages at our barbarity? Even more seriously; could we be on our way to a Goldilocks planet right now, if we hadn’t given so much time, money and brain power to finding better ways to kill one another?
From seemingly silly comments, intriguing dialogue may be born. And I’m oh-so-grateful to have my Mum around – and, for the time being at least, back to her old self – to get such parties started.
And never forget kids, learning comes from all kinds of places…
‘We could get there’ concludes my sister. ‘We’d live in space for generations. Like Battlestar Galactica. Or, we could be frozen. Like in Thundercats.’