Way back when, before I was busy synthesizing business principles and technology I used to apply my scientific training to look at other areas. In a book, revealingly titled Revelations
(pun unintended) - http://goo.gl/oDh5Xq
I looked (amongst other things) at the work of a rather mediocre philosopher and wizard named Bolus of Mendes, an Egyptian who lived in Hellenistic Greece in 200 BC, who had written best-selling book trying to answer man’s role in the universe.
The message of Bolus’ book was so intuitive and so simple that it probably predated its formal statement by several hundred thousand years. What Bolus wrote was that man was a microcosm or ‘little world’ and that within him he contained, on a somewhat smaller scale, all the levels of being in the Universe.
Wizards in Bolus’ time visualized the Universe as being spherical, comprised of an almost endless array of ever narrowing concentric spheres that began with the gods and narrowed down to planet Earth. Now Bolus placed man squarely in the center of that fixture, able to influence anything he chose to direct his attention to.
It’s apt as we once again direct our gaze at the universe beyond us willing to explore the question of whether everything, indeed, exists, just for us. The fact that within just ten years we may find evidence of life evolving beyond our current constraints (http://goo.gl/2YYrUR
) opens the door to an entirely new set of questions not least those involving religion, philosophy and even why life appears to be such a persistent force in itself that it can take place even in the most extreme of environments: http://goo.gl/bLVJ07
If life is so persistent that we barely understand it consider that we have only just started to plumb intelligence in species other than ourselves: http://goo.gl/y8bz9i
. Our discoveries are showing that first we may not be quite as unique as Bolus wanted us to be and second that our very approach comes with ‘blinders’ attached, themselves created by the very limits of our biology.
The question why we are not happy to let things be and try to live our short lives on this 3rd rock from the sun (http://goo.gl/SUpXY
) lies in the concept of transcendence: http://goo.gl/OvkUY
. Whether we look outside ourselves or inside ourselves we feel something greater calling to us. Something just beyond our ability to hear it, or understand it. We find evidence of it in the mathematical languages we use to describe the universe: http://goo.gl/HCyYH
and we sense it in our every endeavor that takes us to the very edge of the horizon of our capabilities: http://goo.gl/e4StKy
Self-transcendence, the sense that, somehow, we can become more than we are through our own efforts lies at the core of many human disciplines: http://goo.gl/LGDVuh
. While the answers we seek contain hints of the personal constructs we use to define who we are, it is also a drive to get past all that, to lose ourselves in something other than us. It’s a drive that raises all sorts of interesting questions as Jonathan Haidt says in his TED talk on the subject: http://goo.gl/fcmJUo
In many ways we are like giant statues with feet of clay. We reach for what’s just beyond our grasp just as we struggle to get the very basic details of our lives right. The lofty ideas that drive us form a compensatory mechanism for the very basic deficiencies we experience within the social constructs we create. There is a constant struggle taking place within us. One that we can never really solve alone.
The three pound prisoner confined within our skulls (http://goo.gl/uTigx
) rattles the boundaries of his cage and pushes outwards and inwards seeking to escape. Seeking to find meaning, understanding and a semblance of peace in something a little more absolute than the ephemera of life. Seeking, in other words, to do what Bolus so easily told us in his book such a long time ago: to get a sense that we matter. That our existence has meaning. That our struggles and passage actually are not part of a cosmic joke. Should we succeed in making contact, at some point, with civilizations other than ours the potentially shattering disruption we feel will come from it, is so only from our current, still, very anthropocentric perspective.
There is nothing wrong thinking we are the center of the universe of course, provided we can contextualize it. Provided we understand that it’s just another means to an end. A ploy we use to make ourselves venture outside the confines of our modern ‘cave walls’ and look at the universe beckoning and say with confidence: “Yeah, we can do this.”.
Until we do get to meet ET and exchange outwardly coffee and donut recipes, we have to make do with our Terran-based delights. I hope you have had the foresight to stock-up on yours so that the coffee pot will not run dry and you will have enough donuts, cookies and croissants to last at least until this day is over. Have a great Sunday wherever you are. #davidamerlandsundayread