Personal Reflection – Cosmic Origins

I must admit, I’ve never quite gotten the love many people seem to have for astrophysics. Almost every time someone wants to promote science, it seems, they talk about the grandeur of the universe, and it’s never really done much for me. So, at first, I focused my observance of this week on the stuff I like more – the philosophical stuff.

I reread parts of one of my favorite books from college – Thomas Nagel’s the View from Nowhere. The book is a discussion of objectivity. Nagel writes that we gain a lot when we look at things from a relatively more objective perspective. Knowledge could not progress if we did not constantly try to put our idiosyncrasies aside and take a wider view of the world. But, he goes on to argue, we also lose something. Just because a concern is subjective is not to say it’s not real or important. Nagel exhorts us to live with the tension that comes from seeing ourselves from multiple perspectives at once. Anyway, I love the book and the way Nagel things about life. I think he has really put his finger on a fundamental human experience.

I also really enjoyed Massimino’s talk. I recognized that sense of loneliness we feel when we forget how connected we really are. I tend to isolate sometimes and it was a good reminder for me to reach out.

I bought some freeze dried Astronaut ice cream. It wasn’t nearly as good as real ice cream, but it was fun. I probably would never have gotten around to trying it without the prompting of this week, and I’m glad I did.

And then I tried star-gazing. I’ve done it before and, as I said, it didn’t do much for me. Stars are pretty, I guess, but I’ve never felt anything special. But I went again, primed with thoughts of my place in the universe and… almost, sort of, felt something. And then it was gone. I’m sorry, I just don’t care about the twinkling little lights. The walk home, though, was a different story. I think it was the cold and the dark and the solitude (I just happened to go alone) more than anything. Those things all tend to make me reflective. But by the time I got back I did have a feeling of greater perspective, a feeling of greater calm as I went back to my everyday life.

– Ian

What were your experiences this week? Comment to share them!

3 thoughts on “Personal Reflection – Cosmic Origins

  1. Awesome.

    I think it’s harder to see the stars in urban areas, but a few weeks ago I went stargazing out in the countryside and it was pretty amazing. But I agree with you — the sense that you’re supposed to feel this absolute wonderment when you see the stars has never really happened to me in the way it’s advertised. Maybe someday it will.

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    • Come see the stars here where I live – in the Mark Twain National Forest in deep southern Missouri. I often feel wonderment when I come after dark and step out of the car – and look up. The whole sky sparkles, and as my eyes adjust, there’s more and more to see. I love it when my kids visit and bring their kids. They grew up here, and while both have chosen city lives, I often hear them say here – Look! look up!
      Once when our oldest grandchild was about 8, we took her on a spring night walk out into a neighboring field close to a wetland where the songs for frogs and toads filled the air. We stood in a sandwich hug to keep her warm – having failed to estimate the chill of the breeze – and looked at the night sky, the rising moon. She’s almost 23, but she remembers that night.
      Thank you for this humanist calendar. I am wishing I could look ahead to the Summer Festival, as we are beginning to plan our fellowship’s celebration.
      Lois Reborne
      UU Fellowship of West Plains MO and longterm CLF member

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      • That is a beautiful story. I’m so glad you have that kind of an environment to share with your family. Sorry I don’t have more to share about the Summer Festival, but we’re still figuring things out ourselves. Do let me know what you folks end up doing!

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