“Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.” – Alan W. Watts
We, as physical and biological beings, seem small. Still, we represent the complexity of the whole universe. Have you ever thought about how miraculous we really are?
Is there an objective reality around us, that is, at least roughly, the same for all of us? The question may seem trivial and unconcerning to the lazy mind, because it is so easy to just adapt the thought that things are just the way they are, without seeking deeper answers.
But let’s see how we, human beings, form a picture of the physical world in our consciousness. Humans have five traditionally recognized senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Beyond those, we are also able to detect other stimuli, and these sensory modalities include temperature, kinesthetic sense, pain, balance, vibration, and various internal stimuli.
All that we perceive of the physical world can be traced back to physical (quantum mechanical and gravitational) interactions between fields and particles of the “outside world” and those constituting our sensory organs and nervous system. The overall picture we form of the world, consisting of objects, living creatures and all sorts of phenomena is often shallow, simplified and generalized. The way this process, our general perception of the world, works, is not a perfect but rather an optimized one, and somewhat necessary, too, as the human mind needs to find a balance and use its resources wisely as it encounters a plethora of tasks every moment, without an endless computational capacity. But that doesn’t mean we can’t sometimes have a deeper look into the workings of nature and contemplate things that are beyond the obvious, below the surface, including our perception, our mind, and our concepts of reality. Let’s take the simple example of how sight works. We all know that, for example, seeing a bird begins with photons from its direction reaching our eyes, the ligt beam they make up goes through the cornea and the lens (among other parts of the eye), to be focused on the retina that transforms it into an electric signal which is transported via the optic nerve to the cerebral cortex in the brain, where specialized groups of neurons create the picture for our consciousness.
Thus, the picture we see, despite how we tend to interpret reality, is NOT outside in the bright sunlight. It is created in total darkness; deep inside the brain. Of course, that does not deny the bird’s existence in the “real” world. But we can ask, for example, in what way is the outside world more real than the picture (or concept) our mind and consiousness creates? Or, we can ask, whether we could make any difference between a world that behaves like we believe our world does, or a world in which the electromagnetic waves reaching our sensory organs are artificially created by an unknown intelligence, to engage our minds in a perfect and total simulation? Further, how can we be sure that our sensory organs and maybe all our inner reality, are not simulated? So the above simple line of thoughts may lead to contemplating the concepts of objective and virtual reality, illusion, deception, self-deception, just to name a few.
After this lengthy introduction, let me advert to the subject of the picture above and the contemplation below. This subject is the littleness and greatness of the human being. Who are we, highly conscious, individual, yet interconnected creatures? How is it that, despite our fallible nature, we are able to transcend ourselves?
I chose the expression Microverses as the title of the image above because it neatly describes the dual nature of human existence. On the one hand we, as physical beings, are incredibly small, at least in comparison to the inconceivably large structures we have discovered and continue to discover in the observable universe. On the other hand, if there is something more miraculous and inconceivable than quasars, galaxy clusters and Great Walls, then it is the way how matter has turned conscious, the way how “the universe looks back on itself through our eyes”. In the conscious mind of a human being, in a certain sense, there’s room for the entire universe. And that’s how great creations we are, despite being seemingly small within the whole of this Creation.
As we established previously, our body, viewed as an individual biological system, is not so large. An ant might see this otherwise. But our body is definitely an enormously complex system. Regarding just the pure numbers, the number of cells making up the human body is estimated to be somewhere between 5 trillion and 200 trillion, three orders of magnitude more than the number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, which is estimated to fall between 100 billion and 400 billion. The human brain itself consists of at least 100 billion neurons, roughly as many as the stars in our galaxy. These numbers are mind-blowing. And, at least to me, it is impossible to grasp the intricacy of all the complex physical, chemical and biological processes that constantly take place inside us.
Let’s see the question of our exiguousness and greatness from a historical, psychological and spiritual viewpoint, too. We, as individuals, as biological creatures, are programmed for survival. Evolutionary competition and the race for resources works through selfishness. We seek victory over other individuals, and groups of human beings seek victory over other factions; either food, resources, habitat or competing ideas may be the motivational force behind the contest. In the process, we commit the most horrible acts imaginable. No evil action exists that has not yet been invented and carried out by humans. On the other hand, we depend on each other strongly. Communities, the members of which supported each other and united their forces, provided shelter, protection, education for all members of the group. And these groups, while fostering survival, helped develop supportive behaviour, emotional bonds and the concept of togetherness. Exercising help and support sometimes led to such extreme outcome as, for instance, sacrificing one’s life to save another, or to aid the whole group. The best known example of the ultimate sacrifice is that of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to save all of us.
So, while we are often selfish, cruel and destructive, we also have the potential to be rightful, to love and to cooperate. Though there are tendencies in the world that can have sour conseqences, I see hope, too. I think it is mankind’s greatest task today to find the ways of cooperation, to accomplish even greater tasks like saving our planet, put down poverty, decrease inequalities regarding access to information, material and cultural benefits. Just think of how the Internet has become a powerful means of sharing knowledge, rearranging resources, getting help and support in may areas of life. I see it as a working model of organizing human minds into a network which works more efficiently and reaches common goals sooner than ever before. It MUST be utilized to an even larger extent so our species could move forward towards safety, well-being, knowledge and prosperity. It may sound like fantasy, but what if human minds, in the future, could unite in an other kind of network, or a common consciousness, by utilizing either future technology or some, presently poorly explored, phenomenon like telepathy? What if quantum phenomena, like entanglement, signal the existence of a deeper level of reality on which we could all become one Gaian consciousness? When we gain sufficient knowledge, will we be able to begin a new era of inhesion as we, the Microverses, come together finally? Maybe, that’s a dream. But dreams may come true one day.
Finally, a couple of words about the picture. I used a street photo I had taken in a crowded underpass at a train station, as the main component of the image. The other components are results of an experiment which took place in my bathroom. I used a laser pointer, low shutter speed and a tripod. I drew the word ME on the bathroom mirror with the laser pointer. My shadow can be seen near the border of the image on the right side. The red and white dots, lines and splotches are also derived from the laser pointer’s light, and symbolize subatomic particles and their collisions. Some of these splotches are symbols of vibrating “strings”, which, according to string theory, can be the very basic elements of matter, even smaller than “quantum” scales.
Dear Reader, thank you for your attention, I wish you a Merry Christmas and happy winter holidays.