Sunday, January 4, 2015

PERSPECTIVE: Life, The Universe and Everything

On New year’s day, we went to the Griffith Park Observatory, a great way to put the new year and the universe as we know it into perspective. I remember when they closed it down for five years of renovations after being open since 1935. Supposedly, Griffith J. Griffith saw the work they were doing with the giant telescopes and thought, “If all mankind could look through that telescope, it would change the world.” He started a fund that opened the observatory to the public for free.

During the renovations, they dug underneath the building and added a lower floor. On the walls is a giant picture of a small slice of the universe, taken from the observatory’s super telescope. It only covers the amount that your finger would cover if you held it up a foot in front of your eyes.

To help illustrate this, here is a picture of Einstein doing it.

Here is a picture of the sky map from the balcony. It consists of about a million galaxies, hundreds of thousands of stars and about a thousand quasars. Imagine how many fingers it would take to cover what we see with our eyes from earth and how many more galaxies, stars and quasars that would cover. 
Sorry, my camera is crappy

Here is one a little closer up.

            Isn’t it funny how realizing how terribly insignificant we are in relation to the universe can make us better people? It must be true. The place was packed on New Year ’s Day. They even had to close the streets off for a while. Finding a new year’s resolution seems comical when you know that the lifetime of man is barely a millisecond compared to the life of our galaxy.

How does realizing how terribly insignificant we are change the world?

For fifteen hundred years, western man believed that all heavenly objects revolved around the earth, a pretty egotistical perspective. But could they help it? It’s not like we could take our eyes and throw it up into space to use a different perspective. There is also something fairly comforting about being the center of the universe, but is it really? Copernicus was shunned for asserting that the earth actually revolved around the sun and Galileo was almost killed in the inquisition for daring to agree with him hundreds of years later, and this was after he invented the telescope. This begs the question, why were people so threatened when someone questioned their beliefs, even to the point of torturing those who disagreed with a scientific theory?

When it became common knowledge that the earth actually revolved around the sun, we became a little less significant, no longer the center of the whole universe, and when we learned that we are just on a small planet in one galaxy among billions of other galaxies full of their own suns and planets expanding through space matter, we became even less significant.

Since we don’t have the technology to travel through these many galaxies, all we know about space is mostly through mathematics and with all the new computer devices we have for calculations, we are challenging long standing theories more and more, but in the end one has to ask oneself, what do we really know?

While the ancient Greeks debated about the earth and the sun the Vedic preists of India recorded these words:

“None can know from where creation has arisen, and whether he has or has not produced it. He who surveys it in the highest heavens, He alone knows-or perhaps does not know." (Rig Veda 10. 129)

The Puranic Hindus seem to have had more perspective than the Greeks. This is taken from Wikipedia but I ordered myself a copy of the Padma Purana so I can site this for myself one day:
The puranic view asserts that the universe is created, destroyed, and re-created in an eternally repetitive series of cycles. In Hindu cosmology, a universe endures for about 4,320,000,000 years (one day of Brahma, the creator or kalpa) and is then destroyed by fire or water elements. At this point, Brahma rests for one night, just as long as the day. This process, named pralaya (literally especial dissolution in Sanskrit, commonly translated as Cataclysm), repeats for 100 Brahma years (311 Trillion, 40 Billion Human Years) that represents Brahma's lifespan. Brahma is regarded as a manifestation of Brahman as the creator.
Only some Puranas describe a universe that is cyclical or oscillating and infinite in time. The universe is described as a cosmic egg that cycles between expansion and total collapse. It expanded from a concentrated form — a point called a Bindu. The universe, as a living entity, is bound to the perpetual cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.
The Hindus were saying that time is an illusion, thousands of years before Einstein’s theory of relativity:
Space and time are considered to be maya (illusion). What looks like 100 years in the cosmos of Brahma could be thousands of years in other worlds, millions of years in some other worlds and 311 trillion and 40 billion years for our solar system and earth.

If the ancient Indians believed we were so insignificant that even this age of man is nothing more than a microscopic speck of ages within ages of universes that will be destroyed and renewed, expanded and contracted, how does this help us with our own suffering?

Perhaps it helped that they believed in many universes and in atoms that split off and passed within and through us. They mention parallel universes and different probabilities where you may be a queen in one life and a beggar in another. One of the layers of the universes is called “false ego.”

There is something about realizing that we are not the center of the universe but that we are a part of it. We are all made of star dust. The same laws that govern the cosmos govern us but the most important thing is to know that we could be wrong at any moment. My life has been a search for truth and nothing satisfies me more than having my whole perception shattered. Only then do I feel like I’m learning something. It’s very different from others who get angry when they realize that everything they believed turned out to be false. I worship those who prove me wrong, but others would have them burned at the stake.

I guess, that’s false ego, the idea that everything you know is correct. Of course, not everyone in ancient Greece was ruled by their need to be the center of the universe.
A friend of Greek philosopher, Socrates asked the oracle of Delphi, "Is anyone wiser than Socrates?" The answer was: "No human is wiser."

Socrates went around looking for someone wiser than he. How could he be the wisest man when he knew that he knew nothing? All he came across were a bunch of intellects who thought they knew everything. He came to the conclusion that he must be wiser than they because he, at least, knew that he knew nothing.

How the ancient Hindus knew so much about modern cosmology is beyond me but they also had this belief that ego is the great enemy of knowledge. Although they had ideas about how their universe was created, they still admitted that they could be wrong. In their spiritual practice or yoga, they made it a point to destroy all self perception that they were the center of the universe so they could see things as they truly were. Poetry was considered the highest way of communicating. Unlike today’s scientists, they used Gods and archetypes, symbols and metaphors but that is the great gift of the human mind. We can think in the abstract and use symbols to portray and communicate that which is too big for the ego to grasp.

Even Buddha wasn’t known to have found “enlightenment” until he finally gave up on finding enlightenment.

He also said, 
“In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.” 
Imagine how much less hate and war there would be in the world if we all understood this illusion.

As insignificant as I am, there is something life affirming about knowing that I’m not the center of everything. Maybe I’m not right about the petty little arguments of life. Maybe I can lighten up a bit, forgive people more, keep seeing the universe through the eyes of a child. Maybe I can stop acting old and jaded, like someone who has seen it all. Maybe I haven’t seen it all. Maybe I should take up a new subject, dance in the rain more and never stop searching for a truth I will never find because I always know that I know nothing. In other words, I should never stop living life to its fullest. 

And maybe I should keep writing poetry and start liking math more and just appreciate how these arts can take me outside of myself and help me transcend time and space. And with all that, all I have left to say is Happy New Year!

I leave you with a quote from the wise existential poet, EE Cumings:
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart


  1. As far as the relativity of time, I'm only gets on vacation for 50 years. Where I come from, it's a long weekend. BTW, Earth is a nice place to live but I wouldn't want to live here. It smells funny.
    As far as math being the be all and end all, I would like to think that the most simple formula, 1+1=2, is the best place to start. Once we know how one effects one and then how we effect one other, we can than move on to 1+2=3. I learned through Zen to empty my cup. If your cup is full, you can never fill it with new knowledge. I believe once you believe one train of thought is the only possible way, you have become pointed and closed minded. You can search for understanding, even belonging, but you can't search for answers. Once you've found the answer, what's the next question?
    And just for reference Lace, Coprurnicus and Galileo, the "church" forgave these "heretics". I wonder if they would really want to be forgiven by these pointed humans.
    Suzuki says bowing is the most important exercise.

  2. Sorry for the typos. It was horribly difficult to scroll and edit. I kept shooting to the top of the page and seeing Purple Lace. If it weren't for that picture, I would have given up after the twentieth failure. I used standard English found in any American dictionary and sarcasm found on the streets of New York. If you can't figure it out, you can communicate with me by following the second star on the left and straight on till morning. We're very "childish" there. Be innocent and even a little naive. That may be part of the equation.

    1. Hello Mr. Finn,
      Lol, your reply has reduced everything to absurdity which is always a good thing for me. If it makes me laugh, even better. I am now enlightened.

  3. Lacey, this was really helpful to me, so thanks and thanks for being my friend. And if i can send you somewhere from here, to continue our adventure together? i joined smashwords finally:

    1. you're awesome! Thanks for sharing. Lets keep supporting each other in our writing. :D

  4. OMG, that was awesome. I'm just going to revel in your wisdomness. You start off nice and grounded, so innocently, and then lead us out into a vastness beyonnd comprehension, along a pass of ego expansion, dedstruction and rebirth. We are nothing but the center of the universe for a majestic infinity of instant irrelevance. In equisitely eloquent prose, too. Thank you for taking the time to compose and share :)

    1. oh shucks. You flatter me! I'm glad someone enjoyed my crazy ramblings!