First contact is when the hero encounters the alien for the first time - ideally an alien intelligence, but if he isn’t ambitious, he might settle for landing on the surface of the alien planet and making his way back in one piece - better to return home disappointed than zapped by a superior power. First contact is the innocence of youth, with all its desire to make a mark.
Off he goes.
Godspeed. May you live in interesting times! Interstellar space is vast, and while it can be measured and known in abstract terms, it’s permanently inhospitable to creatures like us. There might be bacteria who can survive the rigors of near vacuum, but we can never make ourselves familiar in that bleached infinity.
While Kelvin is getting ready for entry, scan the situation around you and make a quick assessment. Are you in outer space? Are you being instructed by mission control?
If yes, stop reading and wait until tomorrow. If no, you’re better suited for Second Contact.
What about it?
Second contact is when you set aside everything you believe about the world and everything you have achieved in it. If you’re the Buddha in waiting, it’s the moment you decide to leave the palace for the forest. Or if you’re Edmund Husserl, you accept the sign of the epoche:
Forest or philosophy, second contact is the childhood of adulthood. It will take time and effort, for there’s no magic wand that will wipe away the sediment of earlier encounters and I wouldn’t even consider it if establishing second contact with the Earth weren’t such an urgent task today. Second contact initiates a contemplative journey to the planet we have taken for granted until now.
How do we approach the Earth from the inside (and not from outer space) after setting aside all the propositions we have accepted until now (earth goes around the sun, third planet, oxygenated rock….). The direct path to second contact goes through Siddhartha and Edmund but we are on a detour with Don, heads full of fantasies.