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Patrick J Reed

I wanted to join the “Beyond” laboratory because its remote location, coupled with its theme, creates the ideal platform for an investigation of loneliness on a cosmic level. In contexts beyond the social, the cultural, and even the biosphere, I want to know: what value does the emotional phenomenon of loneliness have? Does it remain a tool to remind us of our humanity, or does it become a dangerous and inescapable pain more all-encompassing than the night sky?

The rocket man Elton John sings that “it’s lonely out in space,” pessimistically implying that there is nothing but void. In contrast, NASA research astronomer Natalie Batalha speaks to the possibilities of intergalactic love and the great release from celestial isolation that such an experience might bring. Regardless of the authors’ respective credentials, the tension between their claims motivates my own contemplation of the issue: might there be an option apart from the all or nothing binary of these two sentiments? Is it possible to find solace, to divest oneself of ennui, amid the indifferent rocks of space? As a workshop participant, I will operate in this questioning mode, open to potentials of human/astronomical connection–including the possibility that there are none. That said, I look forward to forging human connections by exchanging and transferring knowledge with experts in fields adjacent to and unlike my own–all in pursuit of answers to what happens when we “slip the surly bonds of earth.”

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