Painting the Moon Red

For the longest time, the sole purpose of society was to paint objects red so as to please an onlooking alien emperor. Early humans were quite unsophisticated in their attempts. They would paint things red by slaughtering farm animals and smearing the blood on bronze statues and door posts. Some humans discovered ways to use the bark of some trees to colour things red. However, for most of human history humans did a terrible job of painting things red.

Then we discovered how to synthesize large amounts of red ink. After this discovery, we commenced applying ink to all manner of objects using brushes. Over time we refined the brush technique of painting by making faster and more dexterous brushes. These developments built on themselves, and the coverage of the earth in red paint jumped dramatically. The emperor was pleased. Eventually — thanks to the development of spray-painting drones — we managed to paint the whole planet red. Unfortunately, our supply of the necessary materials for the manufacture of red ink was completely devastated. (We had not invested in a long-term recycling plan; weathered red paint was simply touched up with fresh paint made from non-renewables.) Most priests, however, did not think that our ink-shortage was a big problem. After all, we have painted the Earth red — the emperor should now be satisfied with us and we will have need for more red ink.

But our inky story did not end there. On a quiet Friday afternoon the world was sent into turmoil when the priests announced that the alien emperor, not sufficiently satisfied by our effort, was demanding that we paint to moon red too. At first, our best minds protested this commandment. After all, there were many technical obstacles. Our spray-painting drones would not work in the atmosphere-free environment of the moon. And besides, the ink reserves were terminally low!

Over time, the world’s geniuses started to think of solutions. World governments worked together to start new think-tank groups with new names. Research scientists started including paragraphs about “applications to the red pigment problem” in their grant applications.

Over decades, we discovered more efficient methods to synthesize ink. A prototype spray-painting moon-buggy was built and tested. The moon-project was still a daunting task, but unreasonably handsome people on the television were optimistic that with continued investment in moon-buggies (and one or two unforeseeable scientific breakthroughs) the moon would be painted within the century.

Of course, no one questioned why we were painting the moon in the first place. No one dared to suggest that we choose a different goal. No one ventured to consider that the emperor did not actually exist. And so it was that we did begin painting the moon red. And we did run out of red ink. And so we had to stop painting things red. And the moon looked rather silly — being only half red.

In those days, humankind was dazed and confused. But, in a helpful turn of events, the alien emperor died of complications following a surgery to remove his inflamed alterior plexiflob soon after the ink supply was exhausted. At least, that is what the priests told us to explain why we did not get punished for our indecently-uncovered moon. No longer under the shadow of the emperor, mankind was finally free to put some thought into determining its future endeavors.

The priests recently suggested that we might be interested in putting our efforts into the attainment of happiness via the careful selection of furniture.