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Aliens are coming ... and they want our culture

I am, admittedly and proudly, a science fiction nerd and was rather disappointed this story (about, no joke, credible record of other-wordly aircraft visiting our planet) did not see more exposure last month. Though I suppose there have been more pressing and just as bizarre reports in current political news.

Regardless, this UFO story prompted significant reflection over my recent holiday period. I first, and rather optimistically, assume that if aliens have the technology to cross space/time to visit our planet, they likely aren't here to enslave us or otherwise take our planet's resources. So what else might prompt a visit?

I came to the conclusion that would make for the most boring science fiction movie or novel of all time: aliens are here for our culture.

If indeed explorers are not coming for guns, glory, or God (three major reasons for imperialist exploration of recent centuries), I imagined them arriving in a more Hellenistic sense. Admittedly, the Hellenic period was initially marked by significant war (Alexander the Great and all), but after those were settled, the mixing of knowledge, technology, culture, and other forms of influence occurred rather organically and with little or no bloodshed. It also occurred in multiple directions with Greek knowledge mixing and adapting with near and far Eastern cultures quite readily and without (to my limited knowledge) must cultural colonialism.

I also imagined beings who, so advanced in the hard sciences, might have lost touch with what made them human... er... alien. Perhaps our own humanity and the way we express it--most powerfully through our artistry--is the resource that these beings will most value from us.

Indeed our carbon-based forms and primate-like brains are likely not as interesting as the complex emotions, relationships, and beauty that we humans have found ways to express in all our cultures and communities across the planet. Even if I am entirely wrong about this, I choose to enjoy the thought that what these possible visitors want is simply to simply watch a play, see Hamilton (I'm sure they know the music already), visit a museum, listen to live music, or see a dance performance. Who knows, once they really get to know us, we can invite them to enjoy some stand-up! Do you think alien response rates to direct mail brochures and annual fund appeals will be any different?

I had intended to publish this post before the end of the year as a parting reflection for 2017. But it may be more appropriate to keep in mind all this year as a reminder that the work we all do in the arts may be so valuable that it is worth traveling light-years to experience it. Happy 2018 everyone.

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