Seeking Information

"You can understand why a system would seek information -- but why in hell does it offer information? Why do we strive to be understood? Why is a refusal to accept communication so painful?" (James Tiptree, Jr.)

For most of the past four months, in order to afford this sabbatical, we have been traveling on the low end of the spectrum: living in homestays and staying in hostels. This has meant sharing common spaces, and bathrooms, and water, and hot water...It has also meant falling into unexpected conversations, at all times of day and night, with all sorts of people from all sorts of places and walks of life...

For the past two weeks, though, as we have been moving throughout the length and breadth (okay, so it is not so broad...) of Chile, we have been staying in hotels. This has meant private bathrooms, and hot water, and no untoward conversations. On the one hand, that´s been a relief (I haven´t had to come up with the preterito before breakfast). On the other, it´s been, well...

less interesting. My thoughts about this very human tension between living in a place that is known and comfortable, and reaching out into a space that is new and different, have been abetted by my most recent reading, a collection of science stories by James Tiptree, Jr., Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, and the new biography by Julie Phillips, James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon. What both Tiptree´s stories and the wild story of her life make clear is the degree to which the very xenophilia and sense of wonder that fuel the science fiction enterprise become negative forces leading to the destruction of human culture (and the destruction of the species)....

How to balance this need for what is known, with this desire for what is new and not-known?