Astonishing Astrophysics: How Our Universe is Stranger than Fiction- Part 2

Social insights from observing our incredible universe

This article is on what we can learn from astrophysics and theoretical physics regarding observations of our universe. Now that we have some very basic insider awareness of the mind blowing realities of the universe from Part 1, it is useful to think how it can affect the society in which we live.

Humanity

Remember your humanity. Forget the rest says the Einstein Russell manifesto. When we gaze at the stars and see our frailty, we see that despite our differences, we are but one human race. We are de-sensitized so heavily by the miseries of this world that we think it is normal for people to die hungry, not have a home whereas others are worthy of praise due to their huge mansions and luxury cars. Innocent people die all the time as collateral damage in wars. But it is astrophysics that shakes us to awaken us from this slumber and follow universal brotherhood and universal love. Einstein says in this regard that: A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”[1]

Thus Einstein realizes through his experiences and studies what the Buddha realized millennia ago. Buddha’s lecture on universal love is very similar and says: “May all beings be happy and secure; may their minds be contented. Whatever living beings there may be — feeble or strong, long (or tall), stout, or medium, short, small, or large, seen or unseen, those dwelling far or near, those who are born and those who are yet to be born — may all beings, without exception, be happy-minded! Let no one deceive another nor despise any person whatever in any place. In anger or ill will let not one wish any harm to another. Just as a mother would protect her only child even at the risk of her own life, even so let one cultivate a boundless heart towards all beings. Let one’s thoughts of boundless love pervade the whole world — above, below and across — without any obstruction, without any hatred, without any enmity.” [2]

We’ve been repeating and perceiving our reality in de-sensitized way for a very long time, with very little information about what is really happening on and to our planet. It’s almost like we are robotic drones that are trained and brainwashed to accept things the way they are. To not question what is happening in our world and to continue on with the status quo, only caring for ourselves and our own lives. As Noam Chomsky would say, our consent has been manufactured. If we continue down this path and continue to perceive and view reality as “this is just the way it is,” we will, in essence, prolong that type of existence and experience for the human race without ever changing it.[3]

So if we want to help change the world, we have to change the way we look at things because then the things we look at will change. In this regards, astrophysics serves as a perspective changer of the highest order.

Education

Astrophysics ignites our innate curiosity to know more about the universe and about ourselves. But our education system is all about grades and constant need of validation which means curiosity and creativity is thrown out of the window. We have to outperform everyone else in a futile competition to get good grades, good jobs and so on. Compartmentalization of knowledge brought about by excessive division of labor means that majority of us does not know the bigger picture. That is why Einstein observed that : “It is nothing short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry.”[4]

War

Why do we wage war? Why do we kill other humans and be killed by them? For what? Nationalism, patriotism, oil, wealth, natural resources, ideological differences, as a mocking power play?

Karl Marx is correct to note that all conflicts and wars are for material acquisitions and profit. But when you see an exo planet that is one large diamond, 93 billion light years across universe and yet so far humans are only found on this earth. Collective unity can allow us to harness the resources of nature more than any war can and to cherish what other humans surround us.

So we fight for ideologies and differences in our collective ideas? Weber highlighted that different ideas also cause friction and is a source of conflict and change and not materialism only. While this is correct, it is quite plain for us to see that beneath the materialistic aspirations, the leaders convince the populations to go to war on ideological basis as no one will kill or be killed due to some water or oil. The ideological basis is the cultural illusion given to start and sustain a war from the populations, whereas the materialistic aspirations lay underneath hidden. That is why to remove this illusion, Buddha says that we should not be attached to ideas as such attachment is prone to reach the extent that we start killing others for the sake of it.

Relating to war and peace, Carl Sagan, a leading physicist notes a very apt irony: “For me, the most ironic token of [the first human moon landing] is the plaque signed by President Richard M. Nixon that Apollo 11 took to the moon. It reads, ‘We came in peace for all Mankind.’ As the United States was dropping seven and a half megatons of conventional explosives on small nations in Southeast Asia, we congratulated ourselves on our humanity. We would harm no one on a lifeless rock.”[5]

But in his masterpiece, Carl Sagan notes profoundly what other many of philosophers and mystics have realized by gazing at the stars and the sky for millienia.

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
 
 The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.
 
 Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
 
 The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
 
 It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” [6][7]
 ― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

References

[1] http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/369-a-human-being-is-a-part-of-the-whole-called

[2] What the Buddha Taught; Rahula 1974

[3] http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/11/11/consciousness-creates-reality-physicists-admit-the-universe-is-immaterial-mental-spiritual/

[4] Quoted in H Eves Return to Mathematical Circles (Boston 1988).

[5] http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/618889-for-me-the-most-ironic-token-of-the-first-human

[6] Pale Blue dot picture taken from here. www.accessibleuniverse.net

[7] https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/1816628-pale-blue-dot-a-vision-of-the-human-future-in-space