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Heavy Meddle: Should I Sign Up For The Mars One Project?

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Dear Steve,

I want so badly to want to be one of those people who apply to the Mars One Project, but I cannot wrap my head around the concept of a definite departure from the planet earth for the rest of my life. Are the people who are okay with this finality actually sane enough to be the first inhabitants on Mars?

--Rocket Man

Dear Rocket Man,

As a little background to those who are not hip to the whole Mars One Project, here’s the deal: It’s a private spaceflight project led by a Dutch entrepreneur named Bas Lansdorp. Last year, Mars One became a not-for-profit foundation. Its mission is to land four humans on Mars for permanent settlement in 2023. A new set of four astronauts would arrive every two years.

Sounds pretty cool, right?

But here’s the fine print. Mars One is the controlling stockholder of a for-profit venture called Interplanetary Media Group. And what does Interplanetary Media Group plan to do? They’re going to create a global reality TV show out of all this, supposedly to finance the expedition.

How awesomely humanoid is that?

Being insane, it turns out, is often a prerequisite to exploration.

So the whole project — from choosing the contestants, to watching them prepare for their journey, to tracking them as they whiz toward Mars (and maybe crash?!), to landing on Mars, to attempting to establish their colony, to eventually running out of food and having to eat each other — will be captured on camera, and delivered to your living room with all the subtlety and nuance you’ve come to expect from our friends in the “reality TV” industry.

Now it may be that old Bas Lansdorp has taken a cold hard look at the state of the world circa 2013 and realized that the only way to make the billions of dollars necessary to carry out this mission is by turning it into a corporate sponsored media carnival. But it’s more likely that this thing is a Barnum-quality boondoggle that will generate tons of hype but never get off the ground.

Of course, your question is whether the people who would agree to book a one-way ticket to Mars are “sane” enough to settle the planet. I have no idea. If you take a quick look at the exploration of this planet, most of the folks who sailed into the “unknown” were greedy imperialists who — once you remove their imperial burnish — were in the business of plunder and genocide. Many were also criminals. (Hey, Australia, I’m talking to you.) Being insane, it turns out, is often a prerequisite to exploration.

But look, Rocket Man. I don’t want you losing a lot of sleep over this. Even if Mars One somehow manages to transport a quartet of contestants to the Red Planet, the chances of them breeding are extremely low. As the sage philosopher Sir Elton of John reminds us, Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise the kids.

In fact, it’s cold as hell. ♥

Dear Steve,

I started getting counseling recently because I didn’t know how to deal with the feelings I developed for one of my best friends. I thought I was in love (head over heels in love) with someone I can never be in love with. In addition to being a great friend and someone I’ve shared a great deal of my life with over the last year, he’s also straight.

Do you think it’s possible for me to crush these feelings and just be his friend?

I didn’t know when we first started to become friends that I was looking for an emotional connection. I don’t know if you can imagine how terrified, ashamed, guilty, helpless and pissed off I am.

Over the last three months I’ve told him everything. I wasn’t sure what to expect. As it turns out, he doesn’t care.

The advice I keep getting from other people is to get away from him, that this “friendship” is toxic for me. It’s nearly impossible, though, because we take classes and play music together. Plus, we’re in the same fraternity. Even if I stopped talking to him, I would still have to see him every day. I also don’t know if I’d even be capable of forgetting everything, forgetting about him.

My question is this: Can this friendship be salvaged? Do you think it’s possible for me to crush these feelings and just be his friend?

--Smitten and Cursed

Dear Smitten and Cursed,

And I thought I had college drama.

Look: You’re in a real dilemma. It seems unlikely that your friend is ever going to return your feelings. Spending time with him has therefore become profoundly painful. So the short answer here is: No, the friendship can’t be salvaged, he’s just not that into you, it’s time to move on.

But it’s more complicated than that, because you have a whole life as a student and musician and fraternity brother and this guy is a part of that life. So you have some tough decisions to make. My advice is to limit your exposure to this dude as much as you can right now. Find other people to play music with, try to avoid taking the same classes, spend less time at fraternity events. At least until your heart has had a chance to mend, and your mind to clear. In other words, you’re going to have to go through a period of mourning. You’re going to have to accept the loss of this person as an object of desire and a friend. And it’s going to totally suck for a while.

I sense that your situation is more confusing, and that part of your struggle — maybe the biggest part — has to do with self-acceptance.

From what I can tell, you’re doing the right things. You’re seeing a counselor. You’re trying to be honest about how you feel. You’re experiencing your feelings rather than trying to “crush” them. The next step for you is to start taking the steps required to move from wallowing to remaking your life.

The good news here (and it may be a while before you can see it as such, but I promise you, it is good news) is that you love deeply. You’re capable of that. Loving deeply is the bravest thing a human being can do — precisely because it puts us in a position to get really hurt.

Now then, let me address one other issue, which you didn’t explicitly raise in your letter but which feels implied. Is part of the reason you feel so “guilty” and “ashamed” about all this because you have feelings for another man? Do you openly identify yourself as gay? Do the guys in your fraternity know that you’re gay? Are they okay with that? Are you? I ask all this because I sense that your situation is more confusing, and that part of your struggle — maybe the biggest part — has to do with self-acceptance.

After all, you’ve managed to fall in love with someone who simply won’t love you back, and won’t even acknowledge your love. When I’ve done that in my life, it’s almost invariably as a way of punishing myself for wanting things that deep down I don’t feel I deserve. But here’s the thing, S&C: you do deserve love. You deserve to find someone who’s ready to share your feelings, who honors the gift of your devotion. But, that’s only going to happen if you can find a way to love yourself. ♥

Editor's Note: Readers, what do you think? Do you agree with Steve? Or would you offer different counsel entirely? Let us hear from you in the comments. And what about you? Are you struggling with your own existential crisis? An etiquette issue? Mild forms of social self-recrimination? We can help. Send your questions:

This program aired on June 17, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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