I Would Live On Titan If Given The Chance

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

Although it would be fascinating to explore the methane-rich oceans being governed by skies of vinyl cyanide, I think it would be rewarding for me long after being deceased to describe such a landscape. The scientific understanding of Titan would not only assist in my survival, but also in enriching my vocabulary. It would also be a disservice if I did not examine space colonization through the perspective of an English major.

Coming out of my hovercraft, I would sift through the sticky sand dunes while wearing my protective suit that would appear like the ones used for Earth skiing. I would commemorate the efforts made by astronomers in landing their rovers and probes upon Titan while describing the spacecraft graveyards that might exist on an island. I would look up at the orange skies, which, like Earth, have a thick atmosphere that protects the surface from ultraviolet radiation. Since I would have to learn scientific words in order to vividly describe this new land, I would have to write with a Huxleyan flare.

As for my occupation on these settlements, just like the protagonists in George R. R. Martin’s early science fiction work, I would like to be someone who is sent to an unknown world to explore it. Specifically, I would like to be sent out alongside scientists and archaeologists in uncovering water sources, sites for future settlement, and even possible life. I might also have to take part in terraforming Titan, especially since Titan can have temperatures that reach -179 degrees Celsius. It would be important to add warming compounds such as chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere and photosynthesizing organisms such as lichens, mosses, and liverworts into the soil. Although I wouldn’t mind congregating among fellow colonists, I am naturally more inclined to befriend the landscape than other people; not just because I am an introvert, but because I would like to expand my own personal horizon.

While Titan can reach chilling temperatures, I would expect to live in this colony within a heat-compacted settlement that is above ground. Where exactly I would live geographically would have to depend on how much of a good view I can get of the Titan frontier. So I would have to live on one of Titan’s mountains, like the Taniquetil Montes, which have been named from a range of mountains from J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Ring” series.

Any valleys, rivers, and other geological formations that the Taniquetil Montes would become my Walden and I would write with a Thoreauvian perspective about the Titan landscape. I would call into question the concept of land ownership as it would apply to human relationships as a whole in terms of wealth. I might even name this area New Walden. I would like to paraphrase Thoreau’s “Walden” in the context of this article by stating:

“What is a house but a seat?–better if a terraformed mountain seat.”

Similar to Thoreau’s experience, I would lend out my services to fellow settlers of Taniquetil. That would be life for me outside of the cities. I would only go to the cities if it meant doing a job there or even doing sight-seeing at the organic development of Titanling culture.

Akin to civilization-building techniques as old as human history itself, it would not come as a surprise that Titan cities would thrive in close proximity to a water source, specifically Ligeia Mare, a lake located in northern Titan. Because the water is made of methane, I would think that there would be technology used to convert it into drinking water, especially since there already is technology right now in converting ocean water into drinking water.

Although colonizing another planet would create a colossal feat for the human race, I naturally think that all of the negative aspects of the human race would be brought with them to Titan. One of those negative aspects is war between the most powerful countries in the world.

Since it would be inevitable that the superpowers of Earth–America, Russia, China, the Gulf States–would take advantage of this colonization race, I would be very interested in how diasporic populations from non-superpower nations would live in this Titan frontier. I could envision a complicated relationship between these populations and the colonial powers which would be not all too different from the complicated relationship between the Irish and the empires that colonized the Caribbean. In that case, it would not become uncommon for people from non-superpower nations to switch allegiances to other superpower nations for any benefits that they may find.

Though, I would be very interested to see how these interactions between entire nations would create an agreed-upon vernacular. Just like how Mannie from Robert Heinlein’s “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress” narrates and speaks in what would appear to be broken English but is really a Lunar Creole combining English and Russian, it might be possible that creole languages would emerge. This interaction might be more interesting to me if I was given the opportunity to write about such encounters.

But because there would be colonies on Titan, I can imagine that there would be condescension from the superpowers proper, specifically when they look upon Titan colonials as not being in the position of taking advantage of the educational resources on Earth. This would be a problem that already exists on Earth when it comes to post-colonial literature in former colonies like Zambia. Since there was little access to publishers, who already think of the Zambian audience as illiterate, this came to the advantage of self-published authors like Sekelani Bandi. Having national literature (or in this case lunar literature) written by colonials would help make literature in general relevant to Titan society.

Amidst all of these conditions and tribulations, I would say to anyone curious about my perspective that my contribution to this hypothetical Titan literary culture would be worth it to me. Since I already mentioned famous authors in this article, such as Tolkien, Martin, Thoreau, Huxley, and Heinlein, their works including the works of many of my literary inspirations would be lined up in my shelves made from Earth-imported wood. I would be interested in seeing how entire generations of Titanlings would read my observations of the Titan landscape.

The Love-Hate Relationship Between Creativity And Mental Disorders

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

While it is true that creativity and mental disorders such as pervasive depression disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia can coexist, that connection cannot be simplified in such a way as to imply that great art can only be inspired by great suffering. The factors that can provide that connection can come from inside the brain itself. The connection between creativity and mental disorders is complex and requires looking into it, not to find just the causation of creativity, but also about the process of its creation.

Creativity can only exist within mentally ill people when their ailments do not prevent them from doing so. Julia Wilde of Discovery News said eloquently that “Many creative types find themselves disabled by their disorders just as often as they are inspired by them.” Not only that, but mental disorders are quite different in terms of how they impact the brain. In the case of depressives, since their prefrontal lobes are shrunken, they do not find satisfaction in anything. It is only when their dopamine levels increase that they become creative. Whereas, people with schizophrenia have incredibly high levels of dopamine and hyperactivity in the frontal lobe, which can result in blurring between reality and fiction.

In some ways, it can be argued that the stereotype of the “Tortured Artist” is itself harmful, as it only implies that creative people can only be taken seriously and their works can only be regarded with awe when they have a mental disorder. Although famous artists and writers such as Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, and Vincent Van Gogh are the prime examples when it comes to this connection, it is not inherent within talented artists to have a mental disorder. According to Anthony Fantano, a well-known YouTuber who reviews music, who has more than one million subscribers, great art mainly consists of communication and skill.

It would make sense that people with mental disorders are more inclined to creativity, especially when these mental disorders consist of dwelling on negative thoughts and memories. By obsessing over them, they also include a myriad of solutions unique to those problems. It is even proven that the precuneus, the center of the brain responsible for retrieving those memories, remains active among creative people during the process of thought, whereas in any other normal functioning brain it remains deactivated. So the internal struggle may not simply be the inspiration for great works of art, but it is an assisting component. Not only does problem-solving become a major skill in this complex relationship, but Professor Nancy Andreason of the University of Auckland argued it also includes exploration, doubt, and curiosity.

Genetics may also play a role in mental disorders. A prime example would be the prevalence of suicide among Ernest Hemingway’s own family members. As it turns out, in a study conducted on Icelanders, Swedes, and Dutch people, people in creative professions have a 17-25% greater chance of being diagnosed with a mental disorder than people in non-creative professions, and this was proven by examining the genetics of creative people when looking at the prevalence of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

These “tortured artists” do not gain their innovation because of their disease, rather they gain it to counteract the disease by compensating that temporary lack of dopamine with tremendous bursts of creativity. The concept of mental disorders include many types of that affect the brain in different ways, which adds to the complexity of the “Tortured Artist” connection. I will definitely say that mental illness is not something that can lead to great works of art, but great works of art can be the treatment. Adrienne Sussman, from the Stanford Journal of Neuroscience, agrees by stating “…instead of trying to eliminate them [mental illness] by medication, we should embrace these mental states as valuable in their own right.” No amount of prescriptions and anti-depressants can fix the complexities that exist within mental disorders and art can provide an in-sight and, quite possibly, the remedy for them.

Who Really Owns Land? Us Or The People Native To It?

There is this interesting website called Native Land which pinpoints any indigenous nation that held original claim to any land where an address or city is typed in. This map also includes information about indigenous claims in Australia, New Zealand, Greenland, Canada, Central America, and South America.

As I can see in the featured photo, my entire state belongs to the Lenape nation. I would say that it belongs to them because there are plenty of place-names that are derived from their language. It does shame me that New Jersey is known less as Lenapehoking and more as America’s embarrassment.

It should be noted that this app was invented by a Canadian programmer named Victor Temprano who learned about Indigenous land ownership in British Columbia. The juxtapositions of Indigenous studies and programming really do show that this interdisciplinary track really can create unique results. In this unique result, it raised the very question I addressed in this blog, which is the fact that indigenous people deserve more credit than already given, since they are tied to the land, in such a way that their own language and ways of living are encoded by it.

Although the website itself claims that it is not for use in legal matters, such as tribal and governmental disputes, there are mentions of the treaties involved. So, it really does bring into question whether we (as in descendants of the original colonizers and the immigrants) really hold claim to land and whether we truly know about it. When Temprano was creating this app, the indigenous maps of Indigenous territories became sources more important than the written and oral histories (which are only referenced when there is no map). To be indigenous to a land means to be the original dwellers on it and to have lived on it for thousands of years. Compare that to the (at most) 500 years that the colonizers have lived and thrived off the land. It is a blip compared to the intrinsic connection indigenous peoples have to their land.

The concept of land ownership itself is different among native peoples. In their cultures, they are not entitled to the land, but beholden to the land. In other words, they do not abuse it, rather they depend on it. This is the exact case of the Lakota nation, who were known to have made every use of a single buffalo. So this symbiotic relationship, as Professor Patricia A. Shaw described, would have been established since their hides were used for tipis, clothing, and moccasins; bones for needle and awl; and meat for sustenance.

If there is not any legal controversies that would exist, then the purpose of Native Land would be for educational purposes, letting tourists and non-natives in general know that the area they are visiting originally belongs to the tribe that dwelled on it. This was a point raised by journalist Leena Minifie, who is one of Temprano’s collaborators and is from the Gitxaala Nation in Tsimshian land.

The fact that indigenous peoples are made to publicly acknowledge their land, whether it is in an empty stretch of land or a metropolitan area, can lead to further inquiry about how those people lived on that land before colonization. Since the Australian city Adelaide acknowledged the Kaurna nation’s indigenous status, this lead to their website posting the original Kaurna names and pronunciations of parks, squares, and bridges.

There is this word that I see used a lot, which is “decolonization.” It does not necessarily mean non-natives emigrating from lands that were settled, rather it means an incremental inclusion of Indigenous knowledge, in such a way that it has authority in places wherever it exists, such as academia. This definitely has to do with the use of rivers. There was a case in British Columbia where an agreement was reached between the BC government and the indigenous tribes of the Broughton archipelago that there would need to be consent given by the tribes in order to farm salmon. That case has been part of an ongoing debate about the term “consent” and how much power the indigenous community has to determine whether a company is to set its designs on the rivers or the landscape. That word alone would provide a discussion about indigenous ownership of the land, whether they were already recognized or if they are making claims of recognition. It would also uncover the jurisdiction over land that either the national government or the tribal government has.

There is definitely a case to be made about land ownership as it applies to the native population. It would definitely make non-natives more educated about the land they are living in and not take it for granted. Doing so would make the indigenous community more relevant and no longer as a forgotten part of history and would provide them more jurisdiction over the lands they originally came from.

Endangered Languages Are Adaptable To Popular Media

DISCLAIMER: This was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

In order to dispel the stereotype that endangered languages are primitive and no longer have relevance, talented speakers (as well as non-speakers) have taken advantage of popular media in order to raise awareness that it is not the case. Media, such as music, film, and video games, have been used to show that endangered languages are adaptable to modern technology. While communication in these types of languages is important, media can help promulgate them.

Music is especially important when appealing to the younger generation. It would become relevant to young Irish people to hear Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” and Bastille’s “Pompeii” covered in their language, especially when the English language permeates their everyday lives. This medium reaches to the younger generations’ enjoyment as well as deep within their hearts.

Margaret Noodin, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a native Ojibwe speaker, wrote about collaborating with fellow Ojibwe-speakers–Howard Kimewon and Alphonse Pitawankwat–in translating lyrics from Metallica’s “Welcome Home (Sanitarium).” What started as a request from local high school students became a confrontation with problems of the Native American community, such as suicide, especially with lyrics such as “Welcome to where time stands still” and “I fear living on” (Bringing 128).

The emotional connection is what keeps the younger generation engaged. This generation also has interactive connection through video games. There is an independently released PC game that involves the speakers of Iñupiaq, a language indigenous to Alaska, being the voice actors. When the game was released, its very title provided an advertisement both to any young Iñupiaqs who want to connect with their identity as well as the broader consumers whose curiosity of Alaska Native culture might become inspired by the game. It was marketed as “Never Alone” along with the Iñupiaq translation “Kisima Ingitchuna.” There was also an attempt by the Luiseño tribe to revitalize their language via Nintendo DSi, by producing 150 copies of cartridges containing songs, vocabulary, and quizzes to the students.

While music and games appeal to the younger generation, film helps bring a language to a wide audience. It is also a medium which famous actors and directors will use as a language revitalization project. It would involve using the language within the dialogue in order to provide both verisimilitude and broadcasting. In an effort to make “The New World” more realistic, Director Terrence Malick hired linguist Blair Rudes to reconstruct the extinct language spoken by Pocahontas and her tribe, using as sources the original word-lists recorded by John Smith himself and from words from related Algonquin languages. After the film was released, Rudes handed the fruits of his research to the descendants of Pocahontas and worked with Helen Rountree, an expert in Virginia Algonquian tribes, in developing a Virginia Algonquian dictionary.

If popular media can propagate dominant languages, such as English and Spanish; then they would also be impactful if the endangered languages were to be used in the same media. What they offer is direct defiance towards years, if not centuries, of stigmatization and imperialism (both nationalistic and capitalistic.) While documentation of these languages is important, they are not meant to be confined into archives as dictionaries, field-notes, photographs, and sound recordings. Popular media is like the language-speaking workshops that Daryl Baldwin hosted to introduce new speakers of the Myaamia language, which he described them as “…not just about language, but about recovering pieces of your identity.”

To learn more, read “Bringing Out Languages Home: Language Revitalization for Families.”

 

Attribution: YouTube