As the Founders grew older, they appear to have gotten increasingly interested in the matter of having left earth. This was not really a matter of nostalgia for earth, as they made clear by having signed the First Protocol, nor was it personal vanity. They held the first symposia on this matter, and our practice of the Symposium as a local discussion and education institution sprang from this root. So, ultimately, did the papers we now know as the Pensays of the Founders, which are stored in Archive and have been printed and made public in many media. These have not the force of the First Protocol; to the contrary, they have no force in customary law at all. They are, however, revealing documents about why we left earth and what we left behind.
All of our knowledge of earth life and society for our first seven hundred years off the planet came from the Pensays; so, too, did out knowledge of earth geography, its “nations,” its terrible wars, and the individual lives of the Founders and their experience of the Iceland years. Those Founders who brought with them memories and ideas of religion expressed, so far as we know, for the first time since leaving earth that interest,in these writings (although surely spouses and lovers and close friends had shared these in private moments). Those, contained in the Pensays on Religion, are required reading in Level twelve and above. The Pensays on Music have given us all we know of earth music and its makers; they recorded the names of the “great” composers, not, perhaps, grasping the fact that they had themselves all but destroyed the idea of “greatness.” A few of the Founders were musicians enough themselves to have given us musical notation and examples from it that they had memorized. So deep was the love of music, in fact, that by the fourth year on the Moon, some Founxders were trying to reproduce the musical instruments they had known – difficult, as more than one of them said, in a world without wood. (Wood, a product of trees, of which we have very few, was apparently the material for many instruments.)
Much the same is true of the Pensays on Art, although few of the Founders seem to have had the skills to reproduce the art of which they wrote, especially painting in color. (The reason for the comparatively large number of skilled musicians and small number of skilled artists among the Founders has been the subject of seven advanced monographs.) Descrptions of ‘great’ earth painting have had little effect on Outposters, and having the names of ‘great’ paintings has meant little or nothing. Outpost art, therefore, unlike Outpost music, owes little to the past on earth.
It is from the Miscellaneous Pensays most of all, however, that we have gained some idea of what individual and family life on the planet was. It is from them that we know of ‘TV’, ‘DVD’, ‘movies’, ‘shows’. ‘news’, and the vast range of earth’s distractions from reality. Its savage and foolish politics amuse us but seem not credible – follies invented by Founders to tickle us. The Founders’ attempts to tell us of ‘political philosophy’ are incomplete and reach us as a kind of fantasy; the accounts of actual political philosophy in its applications reach us as a kind of grand guignol – ‘democracy,’ ‘totalitarianism, ‘plutocracy,’ and the rest. That these systems could not work is self-evident, yet the millennia of earth wars seem proof that people believed they could, and in fact must.
Finally, the Pensays on Thought gave us what we know of earth philosophy. Much of it is tantalizing, but of course incomplete and mangled by the interposition of the Founder, however well-intentioned he or she was. It is impossible to read the Pensay on Aristotle, for example, without seeing that Aristotle’s social bias was his philosophy (the same is true of Plato, etc.) and that what his importance must have really been was as an analyst of existing systems, at which he was acute. Of the ancient philosophy of which so many of the Founders wrote, it seems to us that Socrates – unfortunately through the highly prejudiced voice of Plato – was the most profound. His method has informed our Colloquia and Symposia and is important to our theories of pedagogy, but his ideas – in fact, none of the supposed ideas rehashed by the Founders – are important to us in any practical way. It is a curious contradiction, and perhaps one typical of humans before genetic modification: the Founders rejected earth and all its ways, but they revered the supposed philosophies of certain individuals, even though those philosophies were welded to, based on, and meant to perpetuate, the very practices and institutions from which the Founders were escaping.
It is probably because of the Pensays of the Founders that interest in earth was renewed. The early centuries on the moon were centuries of hard, even killing work. There was a desperation to survive. Earth, when it was thought of, was thought of as a repository of all that was bad. Starting in our fourth century, however, we find some speculation, some curiosity, about earth. This became a series of Central Colloquia on earth, on how much about it we should know, how much we should teach our children, how far we should let our curiosity take us. Between our fifth and our eighth centuries there were three referenda on the question of using robots and probes to examine earth. The idea was rejected twice but passed the third time, although with strict guidelines based on the First Protocol’s ban on returning.
Since that referendum, we have done extensive investigation of the planet, first with earth-orbiting satellites that tested the atmosphere and looked for radioactivity. In the eighth century, three robotic landings were made and seven low-altitude drones were launched to send pictures back to Moonbase. It was at that time that we gained some sense of how much earth must have changed: certainly the climate was very different from what the Founders remembered, and fauna in particular were greatly reduced. Huge forests that, they said, had existed in the southern hemisphere were all but gone. And the polar ice caps, which had melted as the result of carbon pollution, had been restored, with vast glaciers of ice penetrating well down into formerly temperate zones.
A robotic probe was sent to Iceland in the ninth century. There were no survivors of the project that the Founders had left behind. The Stayers had vanished. Some years later, the first manned descents were attempted (after another referendum), tests of human survival in the then-present atmosphere were made, local censuses of flora and fauna were attempted, and local searches for human remains were made. None of the latter were found. A few remnants of human construction were identified, much decayed. No sign of existing humans was found, nor has any sign been found since. ‘Human beings,’ in their unmodified genetic state, no longer exist.
Some years later, an exploratory archaeological dig was carried out over three summers at a location believed to have been the principal city of one of the ‘nations.’ Since then, there have been many more. They have expanded our knowledge of earth, its people, and its cultures, but they have not changed greatly what we already knew without going back: without genetic modification, the human was a self-serving, trivial-minded, destructive monster.