Extra-Terrestrial, Extra-Tantalizing

I don’t know what it is about the unknown that keeps us enthralled. Scientists have been studying planets and other celestial bodies in hopes of answering the question on whether or not another lifeform exists in outer space. If it were impossible to send out spacecrafts until today, and no proof whatsoever of aliens visiting Earth was found, I strongly believe there would still be a lot of fiction written about them. It is in our intrinsic nature to seek company, even the company of those that very much unlike us. How you wish they were real.

 

Regardless of what your spiritual belief is, human as you are, you tend to have faith in something bigger than you. Or at least you want to believe that such entity exists. In ancient  Greece, they have made up gods and goddesses, which are very significant characters in their literature, to make life more meaningful and interesting. I admit, if I were born in that time and place, I would have been greatly impressed at the creativity of the minds of those who birthed these characters. From nothing, they have constructed a hierarchy of beings that don’t exist at all. Even so, not being tangible did not stop these beings from being a thing of interest up until today.

 

Going back to aliens, these extra-terrestrial beings – they were very popular elements in books during the Golden Age of Science Fiction. How this genre originated is actually very, put in a lesser formal expression, cool. See, in the 1930s and 1940s science fiction was only beginning to catch the attention of the public. That time, the hot topic in print and media was stories of war. Some writers who would rather not do a parallel scheme for fear that they might end up soliciting negative impressions from the masses, decide to tell stories about the World Wars using an out of this world scenario. They have pioneered the ‘Intergalactic Wars’. And somehow, these stories have formed one of the largest fan bases in the sphere of fiction. Today, grand conventions are held to celebrate the different characters of this genre and many of the attendees come wearing costumes. You have got to admit, once in your life, you wanted to play the role of any character from either Star Trek or Star Wars, two of the most popular products of science fiction.

 

If you have read any sci-fi novels, you will notice that although the story is set somewhere in a galaxy, far, far, away, the aliens in the story show some very human-like traits. This is because their emotions are patterned from that of ours. This is how being creative can give us god-like powers. Creativity enables you to produce something new, and part of it reflects you. It’s not exclusively Biblical to say that creation is created in the image of the creator. Many authors of fiction will agree that most of their characters identify with them, not the other way around.

 

Even if there really aren’t any aliens out there, I’m sure you will be able to make  a story about them. Yes, you, using nothing but your imagination. I’m encouraging you to write your own sci-fi story. It doesn’t have to be about a war. What is your idea of an alien civilization? You can use romance, comedy, or both as a theme to have an unusual take on the genre.

 

A philosopher once asked, ‘Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?’ Pointless, really… ‘Do the stars gaze back?’ Now, that’s a question.” – Neil Gaiman

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On Pieces of Advice

There are, no doubt, hundreds – if not thousands, maybe millions – of inspirational quotes scattered all over the Internet. This kind of advice is, of course, on just about any topic imaginable – love, friendship, school, work, what have you. Advice-giving is a sketchy thing, though. I’d assume the advice being given has worked for the advice giver, but there is never any guarantee that the same good thing will come out of anyone else following the advice given to them. Advice is useful, but it is never guaranteed. That’s why disclaimers exist.

The interesting thing is, I believe there is one piece of advice that will always, always work, even if other pieces of advice, and even if other suggestions, have failed and have dragged you down and made you miserable. And that piece of advice comes from one of the most brilliant writers of the century, the veritable rock star of literature – Neil Gaiman.

A brief introduction: Neil Gaiman is the creator of Sandman. He has written the following: Coraline, Stardust, American Gods, Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett of Discworld fame), and the short story collections Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things. He also, I believe, does not need an introduction past that, given that his track record is already very much impressive.

Neil Gaiman gave a speech to the graduating class of The University of the Arts back in 2012, and while the speech itself is well worth the read for the invaluable advice Neil Gaiman gives to artists of all persuasions, the entire message can be distilled into three profoundly moving words: make good art.

I am not here to elaborate on Neil Gaiman’s speech, or to parrot his words and make them appear as if I am the one giving you such valuable advice. Instead, I’m here to connect what I said earlier – that there is one piece of advice that will always work – to Neil Gaiman’s advice.

The thing is, “make good art” is useful precisely because it can act out its persuasiveness by pushing you to do something about anything bad that’s happened. That something is art, of course – art being anything written, drawn, or generally made by the self. Fall down the stairs? Write a poem. Failed a class? Paint something. Got turned down? Write a song.

I believe that “make good art” is not, in itself, a solution to any of the problems one is facing, but is instead a coping mechanism, something to channel all negative energy present in the system and turn it into something beautiful instead. If you’re the scientific type, think of it as something similar to the Law of Conservation of Energy.

It’s not solely for coping, even. Anything good happening in life demands some sort of documentation, and while pictures and diary entries are legitimate pieces of documentation (diary entries, especially, and most especially when they are revisited years later), great events can serve as fuel for good art. Especially if you’re happy. I’m not entirely sure about the science behind it, but – in vague terms – hormones or bodily chemicals, I believe, release adrenaline or endorphins, when something great happens. That’s a lot of energy that can be channelled right there, and what better way to transfer that than to make good art?

“Make good art” is my personal motto in life, simply because it’s the best non-religious piece of advice I know. And simply because, in my experience, it always works. I’ve made art – whether good or not remains to be seen – every time I felt down, wrote poems every time I felt anxious or incredibly happy about something, wrote stories every time something inspired me.

Now, my piece of advice to you – and it goes without saying that you should not rely on it too much – is to follow Neil Gaiman’s piece of advice. But “make good art” is such an excellent, all-encompassing piece of advice that negates the suspicious, uncertain nature of my piece of advice. Follow Neil Gaiman’s piece of advice.

Isn’t that quite paradoxical, though?

Fascinating.

Some Possibly Useful Links:

As a university student and aspiring professor, I should not be linking you to Wikipedia pages, but one half of this list of links is a Wikipedia page. I apologize. (In my defense, it is about a scientific concept, and science is not my area – not that I’m saying I know absolutely nothing about science…)

The Law of Conservation of Energy / Neil Gaiman’s Keynote Address to the University of the Arts Class of 2012

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