The Mindbending Milky Way

Our Galaxy, Our Home

I have a mild obsession with images of the Milky Way, our galactic home.

It began as far back as the ‘80s when the original “You are here” Milky Way t-shirt emerged. The t-shirt had an arrow pointing to one dot on the western spiral arm.

Young Patrick Dempsey sporting the Milky Way “T” in CAN’T BUY ME LOVE

My first encounter with this simple T-shirt altered my perception in a flash. Something clicked in my brain.

The shirt was comical and yet humbling at the same time. Its incongruity made me laugh, this juxtaposition between the mundane verbiage of a tourist map with the image of our mighty cosmos.

We are tiny. We are huge. Everything is relative.

We look out at the Milky Way, seemingly high above us in the sky — a celestial body far beyond our reach. And yet here we are, smack dab in it, individual specks roving through that western spiral arm.

Home is right here. Home is always ever beyond our reach.

We are cosmonauts hurtling around on spaceship Earth at 1,000 miles per hour each day.

When I look up and see the Milky Way at night, I’m reminded of the strangeness of our perspective. The Milky Way manifests as that thing outside of ourselves which we happen to be in.

We live in an era now where imaging equipment is so very good and so (relatively) inexpensive. We are now awash in a sea of fantastic Milky Way imagery. I have been curating some of these images, from across the globe, here:

The collection is intended as a little meditation tool. The thumbnail images don’t do the images justice — bigger is better. Open them up and be amazed.

I plan to use this meditation tool Whenever.

When I feel sad or stupid.

Whenever I feel like the world is conspiring against me.

Whenever I feel like a fraud or an imposter. Whenever I feel like obstacles are obstacles, instead of new opportunities for expansion.

Why I love these images is because each time I click on one, I have that familiar perceptual flash — the simultaneity of our vastness and our smallness. It takes me out of one side of the paradox we inhabit, our smallness, and puts me back in the center of it, where it all starts to make sense again.

I see a silly Pinterest scrapbook. I see an access point to our greater galactic home. I see both of these things at the same time.

Just looking at these Milky Way images makes my big problems seem small again. It is an instantaneous shift in perception, a reminder that each and every day, we live in a paradox. All of the vastness of space and time encircled by the perceptions of our tiny little brains.

Our brains themselves are small and our perceptual apparatus is very limited. But our consciousness is infinite. As above, so below.

Milky Way imagery is alchemical. It has the power to transform our perception of who we are, where we belong, why we are here. It transcends space and time. This is the same Milky Way that our species has been watching across generations, trying to understand our place in the cosmos.

Our galactic home is the original mindbending imagery, the theater we have looked upon since the beginning, before the era of light pollution, as a reminder of our source.

In my soon-to-be released feature film, entitled MIND’S EYE, it is the alpha image and the omega image — the first and the last image you see as the film opens and closes. The great eyeball of the swirling cosmos looking back at us, as we look at it.

I knew that I wanted to open and close the film with this image. It has taken me this long to understand why.

Meryem Ersoz, 2014

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