I spend a great deal of time thinking about life. Only a little of that is spent on mine. The thing that makes me wonder the most is what the lives of other people are like.
There are about 7 billion people in the world. Many of them are impoverished, with little food and inadequate shelter. Their governments suppress education and freedom. Life-expectancy is short to the point where I, at 42, would be an old man. Even food and water, a basic right of all life, are scarce in many cases.
Others live well, but their cultures and upbringing are vastly different. How is the daily struggle different? What does family mean to them? What does country mean?
An even bigger picture
What about all the people that have gone before? How did people feel hundreds, or thousands of years ago? What was it like with no technology? What was was it like when there was little education beyond family life or a rare opportunity for apprenticeship in a trade?
I'm also curious about those eras that we don't have history on. There have been civilizations with little to no written language, such as Ireland in the age of the Druids. In some places, hundreds of years have passed without an event of historical magnitude. What were the lives of those people like? Were they at peace during that time? Did they prosper?
And all of that is just on one ball of dirt in the universe. What about the countless other civilizations out there. What are lives like on planets in other galaxies? What is important to alien races? How big are some of the civilizations? Do they have great intergalactic alliances and travel from planet to planet somehow?
The universe has been around for billions of years. What's happened in that time? How much longer will it be around? What will life be like in that time? Should I be watching Doctor Who to find out?
Suppression and war
One of the things that constantly remains at the forefront of my mind is a horrified curiosity about how terribly people are suppressed around the world. It seems as though there is always a war happening somewhere in the world.
While writing that last sentence, I decided to google: "What is the last recorded year without war?". After wasting a half hour, I don't believe there is a recorded year without a war somewhere on Planet Earth.
We know that war is terrible. We see it on the TV and in pictures now. Most have seen the sight of dead bodies before clicking away from a web page as fast as possible. History was one of my favorite subjects in school. I always found the people and the lives they lived to be fascinating. I couldn't tell you much about specific dates, but I remember a lot of the details and every single one of those periods in history seemed littered with groups of men forcing others to do their bidding or die. Even those that lived suffered the terrors of war and their long-lasting effects.
Even when there hasn't been war, there's been terrible suppression. The rich live a life of luxury garnered from the backs of decent men and women who work to survive at the most basic levels. The rich may be kings and emperors, they may be businessmen and bank CEOs as in today's world, or they may be religious leaders sitting in gilded churches while speaking to the masses for whatever deity they choose to worship in that millennium.
So what is life like?
What was it like to be a person in one of those places, times, civilizations, or even other worlds? What were their dreams like? What adventures did they want to have?
How did they FEEL? I want to know how people felt. What did the air smell like? What did food taste like? (In many cases I really don't want to know that) What made them laugh? Were they happy in spite of their conditions?
I want to know what their lives are like. I think about it a lot. I dream about it. I stare into the starry sky at night and sigh. What does the future of the universe hold for us? Will we continue to exist? Is it possible not to exist? Perhaps we are trying to discover that by committing all of these terrible actions.
This all affects my writing. When I'm writing about the characters in my stories, I try very hard to think about how they feel. I think about what their world is like around them, even though it's a fictional world. A number of my characters are very unhappy because they see the same suffering in their world that I see in the history of humanity.
I don't know why I've rambled on about this, or even if you'll care. But I've been thinking about life my whole life. I'm going to continue to think about it. The characters in my stories will think about it too, because it helps me to think about it. Most of my characters are very thoughtful anyway.
The emo bunnies stopped paying attention a while ago. I think I made their heads hurt.
Anyway . . . have a mostly wonderful life. I do hope it goes well for you.
John H. Carroll