Henry David Thoreau On Mars

By: Marianne Hess

I have lived most of my life in the Martian colony of Concord, having come from Earth as a lad when my surrogate parents sent me away for what they claimed would be two weeks at space camp. It is my home. However, I have been feeling restless of late. I believe it is time I left the colony and became more intimate with Martian nature.

Many factors figure in my decision. Chiefly, the mindsets of my fellow colonists. Every day, they grow increasingly fixated on material possessions, as if owning one more spacesuit or oxygen tank will somehow make them happy. I envision a Mars devoid of life-sustaining paraphernalia, and even shuttles and rockets and water-processing plants. All these things merely prevent us from living simple and thus happy lives close to the rocky, barren terrain and scarily bottomless pits that Mother Mars has so willingly provided.

Besides the usual accusations of feeble-mindedness, many colonists have taken to accusing me of laziness. I do not consider myself lazy, but lacking a desire to work for what I do not believe. Growing beans? Yes, but not for an entire colony. My fellow citizens of Concord, especially the traumatized orphan children left here after World War III obliterated much of Earth, should have to feed themselves. Instead, I seek to trek across some bone-dry crater or desiccated flood plain and grow my own damn beans. Mother Mars has provided .03 percent water vapor in our beautiful vomit-pink sky for this very purpose.

Other colonists have accused me of outright negligence. Sure, the overseers have assigned me the job of mending our roofs. And sure, I could finally fix that hole in Sector 9E, thus preventing us all from slowly suffocating to death and/or succumbing to severe frostbite. But would I be content? I daresay my quiet desperation would still haunt me, if not in a more clear-headed and warm-bodied way.

Solitude is my only cure. How I long to stand alone and unsuited on some infertile mountaintop, staring up into the thin, carbon-dioxide-based atmosphere, the 150-mile-per-hour high-altitude wind gusts pressing gently against my cheek, pointy rocks whizzing by me like nature’s bullets. Up there with the ethereal dust — its rusty ambrosia filling my lungs and exfoliating my skin like acid — I believe I will ultimately come to appreciate life.

Therefore, I must leave, despite pleas from every citizen that I stay lest I somehow kill us all. Worthless gossip, all of it! Whether I open the airlock and let in a squall of toxic air and dust that will clog the filtration system is my own business. It is a vainly idle mind that finds fault in another, especially when all those idle minds should be concentrating on fixing that hole in Sector 9E, because it doesn’t look good.

The colonists have expressed their disdain in other ways as well. A dozen or so have followed up my assertion that I wish to live simply with a scoff and the retort that I will be lucky to simply live. Then they have either smacked me in the head, claiming to knock sense into me, or threatened to toss me in the grain thresher. Colonists of the gentler variety have said, “But it is folly to venture so far from our advanced medical facility.” They would be right. Due to such fears, these colonists would never dare leave Concord without a spacesuit, citing instant asphyxiation. However, I say the greatest folly is to allow fear to control your life. I do not even mind traveling out of range of the Medivac Rovers, not just because I have confidence that Mother Mars will provide, but because those rovers look eerily human and will probably turn against their creators someday.

Despite the closed-mindedness that surrounds me, I refuse to sacrifice my individualism. And so, on some sunny, -80 degree sol, I will leave this fickle, man-made place and stroll across the miles and miles of sand dunes outside. After that, I will find some placid dried-up lake bed in which to bathe and drink. By it, I shall build myself a cabin out of rock, and grow my own rock garden. I see in this God’s plan. He says to me, “Here is a rock. Use it as you will. And there is a…rock. Also use it as you will. And that one over there. A billion rocks. See? I provide rocks. And strange hematite blueberry things.” God is great.

Every day, I will hike and engage in silent contemplation. As I scrutinize the interminably tedious vistas and contemplate the miracle embodied in the possible traces of ancient microbial life, I will come to understand many truths unknowable to the simple-minded bio-engineers and astrophysicists who populate the colony. Eventually, I will realize that humanity is one with Martian nature. For instance, we expire into dust, just as the dust here causes us to expire. Surely, there will be more realizations, but I cannot think of any now, while still confined inside this terribly artificial micro-Earth.

I can only hope that my feelings have been laid bare in this essay. If not, perhaps they can best be described with an anecdote: Once, a long time ago, there was a wise man on the moon. His fellow astronauts said, “We have such a great view of the Heavens.” But the wise man was sorrowful. “I see no Heavens,” he said, “just the translation of them in this pesky helmet.” So he removed the helmet and saw clearly. There is still a monument to him on the moon today.

If any truth is extracted from this essay, let it be this: It is okay to march to the beat of a different drummer. But there are no drummers on Mars, and I find that very perplexing.


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