Let’s start with this. Can we agree that belief is another way of saying let’s pretend? Can we find that common ground, at least?
Once upon a time, Carl Sagan explained on his award winning program Cosmos, that if you were a two dimensional creature living out your life in a two dimensional world, you would be unable to easily comprehend the concept of “up” or “down.” These would be completely alien to you. In an effort to simplify the point I’m trying to make, allow me to place below a link to a YouTube video of Carl Sagan explaining this very concept, as animated by the very talented Timm Andrews.
Now understand that Sagan is not insinuating it would be impossible for a two dimensional creature to comprehend three dimensional space. However, it would be very difficult. It would be even harder for one that has experienced it, to then try to explain it to his two dimensional friends afterwards. This concept is perhaps better illustrated by a film based on Carl Sagan’s book Contact, which stars Jodie Foster and you’re gonna have to find your own link to that cuz I’m not gonna put the whole movie here. It’s probably available on Netflix.
More recently, a physicist named Michio Kaku has attempted to explain not just the fourth dimension to us three dimensional creatures, but he attempted to explain how our universe is just one of many, and it is possible this perceived multiverse has as many as eleven dimensions. Here’s a video of him causing your grey matter to explode from within.
Kaku waxes a bit poetical there, but you get the picture. Or maybe you don’t. I don’t. I mean Kaku describes “membranes” that are like bubbles floating around in a grand “arena.” This is super vague. It’s super vague for the same reason an apple would make no sense to a two dimensional square. We can’t see what our universe is a part of. We catch glimpses of what our universe is shaped like, and it appears to be self-contained yet if our universe was “big banged” into existence, the energy that comprises our universe must have come from somewhere. Our universe is currently expanding, and yet scientists say it has no true center. It’s not expanding the way a balloon expands when you fill it more and more with air or water. The universe is expanding but not in a manner that allows us to just back track where we were until we can figure out where we started. However, we can see at the furthest outskirts of our universe a faint trace of microwave radiation, which is the spark that once comprised the big bang itself. We can’t see past this cosmic microwave background, at least not yet, because the CMD is like a fossil record of the earliest makings of the universe immediately after what we refer to as the big bang. Here’s a video to illustrate that for you.
So we get a glimpse of where we’ve been, but it’s still pretty blurry right now, and we can’t quite see where we’re going. Well, some scientists have theorized that we are on a collision course with the Andromeda Galaxy, but when we meet with it, it will be millions of years from now and chances are our sun will have gone nova by then. Humanity may not even exist by that point and if whatever evolves after us does, odds are we wouldn’t recognize our descendants anyway as related to ourselves. They’d be more unlike us than Australopithecus. And billions of years after that our universe will have cooled so much as to no longer support life as we know it, and then our universe will die. It’s okay though. We will have long since ceased to be and won’t notice its passing.
If you were to imagine the entirety of time from the big bang to today as the equivalent of one year, the big bang would represent January 1st and the time of the dinosaurs would represent let’s say the latter half of Hanukkah. Marine life and trilobites and things might have shown up on Earth a bit after Thanksgiving. The majority of the calendar would have seen no life on Earth at all. How would we show up on this cosmic calendar? We’d be that time just before midnight on December 31st when two people have their hands on each other’s shoulders or waists and they’re about to kiss each other when the clock strikes midnight. Humanity has existed the length of awaiting a kiss just before ringing in the New Year.
Here’s a video of some students summarizing Galileo’s entire life in two minutes, which I put here mostly cuz it made me laugh.
We look out at the expanse of space and we see a bunch of specks of light in the sky. Thousands of years ago Mankind speculated what those stars were, and for the most part we were wrong a lot. It’s only been since Galileo’s telescope that we have begun to understand more succinctly what we’re actually looking at, and most recently we’ve begun to speculate on “dark matter” which is what we’ve been looking at all this time, that we can’t see, but that radiology tells us must be there anyway.
Jessie J wrote a song called “Who You Are” which mentions stars in the lyrics. Here’s a video of her singing it.
In her song she sings, “Seeing is deceiving. Dreaming is believing. It’s okay not to be okay.” I take a bit of umbrage at the ramifications of these words, but this is how she felt when she wrote it, and I find the word choices to be powerful, provocative, and thoughtful, even if I disagree with them. I can appreciate where she was, and what she went through to get to that point, and where she’s come from since then to get to where she is and to be who she is. I may not agree, or understand, or even deserve to second guess her sentiments, but I can appreciate her and thank her for sharing her glimpse at something more than what we are to examine who we are.
I find belief to be deceiving, but I also find seeing to be deceiving. I don’t think we have all the pieces of the puzzle yet, and while science is getting us closer to the answers than previous belief systems, it’s still not quite enough. We can’t think outside the box enough without adding to what we can’t see in a way that’s beyond mere speculation based on observation. We invent stuff to fill in the gaps of our knowledge, and then we think what we invented must be true. We still have a long way to go.
But it’s okay not to be okay. We don’t have to be right, and what we believe doesn’t have to be truth. It doesn’t have to be, because it’s not, and if it’s not, then it’s okay for it to not be perfect. Imperfections are what make things more interesting. If our universe was simple and easily explained, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as fascinating as it truly is.
I look into the eyes of someone famous like Jessie J in a video or on a magazine cover, and I can only catch a glimpse of what it must be like to share her journey on this spinning rock in space. It’s impossible to even think I know her, or understand where she came from, or why she chose to sing those words to that melody. It’s impossible to even think I truly know the people that are closest to me in my life, much less complete strangers. Like a square contemplating an apple, I don’t really understand what I’m seeing, even if I think I know what’s right in front of me.
I look into the mirror and I wonder who is that person staring back at me. I recognize him, but is that me? That’s not how I see myself inside, when I’m not looking in the mirror.
As I type out these words, on the other side of this spinning mud ball, people have taken to the streets in protest. They seek to defend their beliefs, without truly understanding what that entails. What the consequences will be. What they’re really defending. In another part of the world there’s a small person alone, crying, holding an instrument of her destruction in her hand and wondering whether or not she should use it, and there’s no one there this time to tell her it’s okay not to be okay.
In another part of the world there are a dozen to a score of young people celebrating the weekend, without a care in the world, running and laughing and enjoying one another’s company and they have not a thought in their head about how precious and delicate their lives are. They feel like they’re going to live forever.
In another part of the world there are two people completely oblivious to just how fast they’re traveling through space on this spinning rock, because they’re too busy feeling how fast they are falling into each other’s arms. There will be hills and valleys in their future. There will be times when they hate each other, and there will be times when they love each other even more than in this moment, but this is where it truly begins for them. They will cherish this. Perhaps they’ll remember the name of the song on the radio. They’ll call it their song, even though it was written by a girl who was in a dark place then, and a brighter place now.
In another part of the world, in a time in the future, you are reading these words. Your life is yours and you can describe it better than me. You know where you have been. You may think you know where you are going. You know where you are. Maybe you know who you are. Maybe you’re still working that out. I think we’re all still working that out.
You may think you’re alone. You may feel alone. You’re not. You’re stuck on this spinning rock with the rest of us. Like it or not. We are each individuals and yet we are all connected. You may believe in a god or you may believe in the big bang. We all have a common ancestry and common origins, and ultimately we all end up the same way. Everybody dies, so the how and why isn’t all that important. What is important is what we do and how we treat one another in the intervening time.
While we are seemingly insignificant in the grand scheme of the multiverse, and smaller to the eleven dimensions of space than an ant is to an elephant, we are still matter, and we still matter. If not to the multiverse, than to one another. If you need one, let’s pretend I just gave you a hug. You can believe that if you want. If it makes you feel better.
Everything inside me is screaming. Don’t lose it all in the blur of stars. It’s okay not to be okay.