One of the great challenges of our time is the reconnecting of the human mind and spirit with the raw wonder and awe of the world we are embedded within. An article in the current issue (July/August ’07) of Orion Magazine serves that need for reconnecting us with our ground of being, the larger universe of which we are a part. Titled, A Window of Possibility: Why the Hubble Ultra Deep Field is the Most Incredible Photograph Ever Taken, by Anthony Doerr, the article contains tidbits for awe and hints for imagining the unfathomable. Take these, for example.
…If you had a bucket with a thousand marbles in it, you would need to procure 999,999 more of those buckets to get a billion marbles. Then you’d have to repeat the process a hundred times to get as many marbles as there are stars in our galaxy…
…there are enough stars in the universe (emphasis mine) that if everybody on Earth were charged with naming his or her share, we’d each get to name a trillion and a half of them.
Even that number is still impossibly hard to comprehend—if you named a star every time your heart beat for your whole life, you’d have to live about 375 lifetimes to name your share…
…The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is an infinitesimally slender core-sample drilled out of the universe. And yet inside it is enough vastness to do violence to a person’s common sense. How can the window of possibility be so unfathomably large?…
…Whatever we believe in—God, children, nationhood—nothing can be more important than to take a moment every now and then and accept the invitation of the sky: to leave the confines of ourselves and fly off into the hugeness of the universe, to disappear into the inexplicable, the implacable, the reflection of that something our minds cannot grasp. (emphasis mine)
The direct experience of beauty, wonder and awe that comes to us from looking out into a roofless sky of sparkling stars, the direct experience of inspiration arising within us as we bathe in the deep silence of an old growth forest…such are certainly fodder if not source feeding the human impulse for religion and mythologies of origin. Indeed it is the direct experience of such…that gives birth to mystics and artists of all stripes and hues.
It is also the direct experience of nature’s ‘practical solutions’ that has given birth to countless human inventions, Gortex fabric (permeable blood vessel and cell walls) and Velcro (seed dispersal, such as ‘sock weed’) being but two well know stories. So how deprived does the human become in absence of the opportunity to experience the raw beauty of an unpolluted night sky or an old growth forest, or of a clear free flowing clean river?
Deprived enough that newspaper columnist and child advocate, Richard Louv, authored Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder. Deprived enough that such a people, after 9/11, are told to go shopping, as if spending money and being a consumer is our highest patriotic act, as if we are impotents in the face of a culture that is essentially on a path of self-destruction into Armageddon.
So turn off the night lights of your home when you can (and the ones inside too!) and go take a walk under a roofless starry sky with your child or friend or lover. Or by yourself. It will inspire the human within you, help you re-member who you are and where you’ve come from and what you are part of, or at least help you live a story of your creation about such.
But remember, as David Suzuki said at the 2003 Bioneers conference: “We are the environment. There is no distinction.” So as that old bit of indigenous wisdom reminds us, “What we do to the earth we do to ourselves.”
Oh but we live within such a window of possibility!