Solaristics, wrote Muntius, is a substitute for religion in the space age. It is faith wrapped in the cloak of science; contact, the goal for which we are striving, is as vague and obscure as communion with the saints or the coming of the Messiah. Exploration is a liturgy couched in methodological formulas; the humble work of researchers is the expectation of consummation, of Annunciation, for there are not nor can there be any bridges between Solaris and Earth. This obvious fact, like many others—the absence of shared experiences, the absence of conveyable concepts—was rejected by solaricists, the same way the faithful reject arguments that would subvert the underpinnings of their faith. Besides, what do people expect, what can they want from “informational communication” with thinking seas? A recording of experiences of a being that endures through time, and is so old it probably cannot remember its own beginning? A description of the desires, passions, hopes and sufferings, that are released in the instantaneous birth of living mountains, the transformation of mathematics into existence, of loneliness and resignation into plenitude? Yet all this constitutes uncommunicable knowledge, and if one attempts to translate it into any terrestrial language, all those sought-after values and significations are lost, they remain on the far side. Besides, it isn’t these sorts of revelations, more worthy of poetry than science, that are hoped for by the “believers,” oh no; though they themselves are unaware of it, what they are waiting for is a Revelation that would explain to them the meaning of humankind itself! Solaristics, then, is the posthumous child of long-dead myths, the final flower of mystical yearnings that people no longer have the courage to utter aloud; while the cornerstone hidden deep in the foundations of this edifice is the hope of Redemption…1
Lem’s parable of an unknowable alien intelligence the size of a planet, one that generations of humans have devoted their lives and intellects in hopes of making contact with only to discover that no communication is forthcoming till the blank life of self-generated objects that incarnate the memories of three of the last scientists on Solaris suddenly awakens in these men strange dreams. Here, just here, we follow them as they seek the last vestiges of communicative truth from an alien planetoid. Kelvin himself is caught up in this inhuman drama in which his ex lover who committed suicide is incarnated out of his own mind. A creature without a past who is as fragile and perplexed as Kelvin. Yet, this creature cannot die. Impervious to any form of destruction it is bound to him like a silent reminder of his own dark heritage. I want spoil the story but Lem seems bent on uncovering the motives of science and scientists in this satiric work on humanities inability to deal with the unknown.
Solaris becomes the ultimate project confronting human kind. Also one that is finally almost abandoned as hopeless. As if this great planetoid being might confirm our lives, our meaning; give us once and for all an answer to the question Why? Why are we here? What is our purpose? All the usual religious needs of a needy species. Lem hits the nail on the head about our metaphysical neediness and hope for Redemption. And his apt portrayal of science itself as a religious project that carries on where religion left off. Yet, what is striking in Solaris is the fact that no meaning is forthcoming, no grand deliverance or message of salvation, no communication at all… just the inexplicable memories that awaken from the unconscious hopes and fears of the scientists themselves as 3D models of their own psyche’s half-life and mistakes. Isn’t this what you seek, Lem says, an answer to the meaning of life and the universe, when in truth there is none? No god in the burning bush, no philosopher, no mathematical equation, nothing… no message out of the great silence of the stars… just a vast and lonely void without end. A universe that is slowly running down, in which every star sooner or later will turn its lights off and the only thing that will reign is endless night – an oblivion without recourse or denial.
- Lem, Stanislaw (2014-11-22). Solaris (Kindle Locations 2854-2867). Pro Auctore Wojciech Zemek. Kindle Edition.