Sue Burke (mount_oregano) wrote,
Sue Burke

The Language of Mars

The Spanish National Library is constantly rummaging through its collections, which are of staggering breadth and depth, and it posts surprising items on its Facebook page. That's how I learned about the August 28, 1924, issue of El Sol newspaper.

That issue included the latest news about peace projects in Paris, the Rif War (redacted by military censors), tumult in the Reichstag over reparation payments, the serious illness of Anatole France, an outbreak of smallpox in Madrid – and an editorial about "The Language of Mars." The library called the editorial extravagant: "Imagine the reaction this news could have created in the Spanish population of the '20s."

The issue of the newspaper has been posted online as a PDF as part of the library's ongoing project to digitalize its holdings, and I've translated the editorial for your wonderment and edification. Remember, this was a respectable newspaper.


It's very curious that only observatories in Anglo-Saxon countries believe they've received signals from the planet Mars in response to our own signals. Anglo-Saxon countries are characterized by being more developed in spiritualism and theosophism, which doesn't mean that its peoples are more spiritualist than others. It might even mean the complete opposite. What a spiritualist hopes for is a spirit who can lift up a table so it spells out letters in Morse code with its movements; that is, what an Anglo-Saxon hopes for is a spirit who can create movements, acts of power, which we in Latin countries believe more proper to matter than to spirit. We're not saying that we Latins are more logical than Anglo-Saxons. Being logical doesn't say much, in fact. We could be if we made a somewhat inglorious concession and tried to explain the relationship between the soul and the body, since some kinds of signals require the involvement of the soul to make the brain and nervous system understand what they want to make the muscles do.

In this case, since Anglo-Saxons tend to believe that spirits can make signals in Morse Code, they now also suppose the inhabitants of the planet Mars can do so, too. The word that the Anglo-Saxon observatories have deduced from these signals they believe they've received is something like "jopp" in our alphabet. "Jopp" is no great thing. And, besides, we must remember that the Martians haven't said "jopp" to us. They've only made a number of short and long signals at us. The supposition that they know Morse code or any other is purely arbitrary. The law of probabilities is against it. In reality, it's possible to attribute a much higher level of culture than ours to the Martians without them needing to invent language, much less to break it down into letters.

Our imagination was born and has developed in accordance with our civilization, so it's very difficult for us to conceive of a world of a different nature from our own. But it's possible, for example, that the Martians are blind and instead have the gift to perceive the flow of others' energy and even their future. It's possible, for example, that the Martians have sensed the signals we've sent them without needing to have seen them. It's also possible that the Martians know our future perfectly, something that we don't know. The mystery of "where do we come from" and "where are we going" may be an open book for them. The difficulty we have conceiving of these things is due to man's deep connection to visual representations. The fact that we have three semicircular conduits in our ears is a sign of how hearing is also a visual sense for us – or spatial, to be more precise. The spatial and architectural character of music emphasizes this idea. For us, the world is, above all, a procession of shadows that come and go. Our language is only a series of signals that recount the movements of these shadows, which themselves are signals from a different, unknown reality.

It's possible that the Martians don't see these shadows but they perceive the substance that moves them. They may also know where they've come from and where they're going. It's possible, in other words, that while the sons of Earth are essentially accidental beings, the Martians are essentially substantial beings. In this case it wouldn't be difficult for the signals from which the observatories have taken the word "jopp" to be the key to all the secrets that we can't unlock. Perhaps the signals translated as "jopp" mean "God," and the Martians are telling us that we come from God and we go to God. Perhaps "jopp" means "nothing" and they want to say that they already know that we're going nowhere. . . .

[This piece also appeared in the August 2010 issue of Alexiad fanzine.]

— Sue Burke

Tags: humor, science fiction

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