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384 pages, Kindle Edition
First published March 5, 2002
“To speculate about our destination,” Tan said, “is to increase anxiety, impatience, and erroneous expectations.” He smiled slightly. He spoke slowly, with pauses between sentences. “Our job is to travel. A different job from arrival.” After a pause he went on, “But a generation that knows only how to travel—can they teach a generation how to arrive?”
“Nothing in the world has more or less than two legs. Nothing has wings. Nothing sucks blood. Nothing hides in tiny crevices, waves tendrils, scuttles into shadows, lays eggs, washes its fur, clicks its mandibles, or turns around three times before it lies down with its nose on its tail. Nothing has a tail. Nothing in the world has tentacles or fins or paws or claws. Nothing in the world soars. Nothing swims. Nothing purrs, barks, growls, roars, chitters, trills, or cries repeatedly two notes, a descending fourth, for three months of the year. There are no months of the year. There is no moon. There is no year. There is no sun. Time is divided into lightcycles, darkcycles, and tendays. Every 365.25 cycles there is a celebration and a number called The Year is changed. This Year is 141. It says so on the schoolroom clock.”
“For all the middle generations of the two-century voyage, their reason for being was to be alive and well, to keep the ship in good running order, and to furnish it with another generation, so that it could accomplish its mission, their mission, the purpose to which they were all essential. A purpose which had meant so much to the Zeroes, the earthborn. Discovery. Exploration of the universe. Scientific information. Knowledge.
An irrelevant knowledge, useless, meaningless to people living and dying in the closed, complete world of the ship.
What did they need to know that they didn’t know?
They knew that life was inside: light, warmth, breath, companionship. They knew that outside was nothing. The void. Death. Death silent, immediate, absolute.”
He wrote: “Life/ship/vehicle/passage: mortal means to immortality (true bliss). Destination metaphorical—for Destination read Destiny. All meaning is inside. Nothing is outside. Outside is nothing. Negation, nil, void: Death. Life is inside. To go outside is denial, is blasphemy.”
“The elementary and high school curriculum had been scarcely altered since Hsing’s and Luis’s schooldays. The most striking change was a decrease in information and discussion concerning both Dichew and Shindychew. Children now in school spent very little time learning about the planets of origin and destination. Language concerning them was vague, with a curiously remote tone. In two recent texts Luis had found the phrase, “the planetary hypothesis.”
“But in 43.5 years we will arrive at one of these hypotheses,” Luis said. “What are we going to make of it?”
“My grandfather's grandfather walked under the heaven.
That was another world.
When I am a grandmother, they say, I may walk under heaven
On another world.
But I am living my life now joyously in my world
Here in the middle of heaven.”
“But a generation that knows only how to travel — can they teach a generation how to arrive?”
He mentally perceived words as having various sizes, densities, depths; words were dark stars, some small and dull and solid, some immense, complex, subtle, with a powerful gravity-field that attracted infinite meanings to them. Freedom was the biggest of the dark stars.”