Space exploration and the epic of evolution

 

And we who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos we’ve begun, at last, to wonder about our origins. Star stuff, contemplating the stars, organized collections of 10 billion-billion-billion atoms contemplating the evolution of matter, tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet Earth and perhaps, throughout the cosmos.

Carl Sagan, Cosmos, episode 13

When I was a child, I was strongly influenced by Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, and especially the quote above. It touched something in me. It resonated with a knowing in me.

Later, in my early twenties, I read The Overview Effect by Frank White, and that too resonated deeply with how I already experienced the world. In it, he describes how astronauts, when they see the Earth from space, often viscerally realize that the Earth is one seamless whole, fragile, with a thin layer of air supporting life. For some astronauts, and especially those who went further away from Earth, it was a deeply transformative experience.

All of us have access to it through photos, movies, and first-person accounts. And also through seeing the starry sky at night, and any time we are reminded of the Earth as one seamless whole. In my case, I had a profoundly transformative experience when I was 10 or 12 years old, in a sleeping bag under the vast starry sky on a mountain in Norway (Sølen) with an equally vast view of the landscape stretching our below me.

I see that Frank White has a new book coming out in a few weeks: The Cosma Hypothesis – Implications of the Overview Effect.

Following the pattern set in The Overview Effect, the book draws on interviews with astronauts about the ways in which spaceflight shifted their understanding of our relationship with the universe. The Cosma Hypothesis suggests that our purpose in exploring space should transcend focusing on how it will benefit humanity. We should ask how to create a symbiotic relationship with the universe giving back as much as we take, and spreading life, intelligence, and self-awareness throughout the solar system and beyond. 

From the Cosma Hypothesis book description.

I obviously haven’t read the book yet, but again it resonates with me.

As Carl Sagan said in the quote above, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into awareness. We do it in all the different ways we live our lives, individually and collectively, no matter how exciting and novel or mundane and familiar it seems to us. All beings are the local senses, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. All beings are the universe locally bringing itself into awareness.

And so it also is with space flight and space exploration. That too is the universe bringing itself into awareness. The universe exploring itself beyond this one living planet. It may even be how the universe spreads the life on this one living planet beyond this planet through colonization and terraforming. From the Earth’s perspective, we may well function as the reproductive organs of Earth.

The universe brought itself alive through this living planet and us, and it’s very natural for it to wish to explore itself beyond this one planet, and even to spread life beyond this one living planet, and to do so through us. We happen to be the social and physical organs of the Earth that are equipped to do just that, and the time for the first small steps happens to be now.

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Carl Sagan: We who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos

 

And we who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos we’ve begun, at last, to wonder about our origins. Star stuff, contemplating the stars, organized collections of 10 billion-billion-billion atoms contemplating the evolution of matter, tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet Earth and perhaps, throughout the cosmos.

– Carl Sagan, Cosmos, episode 13

 

Carl Sagan: We are a way for the cosmos to know itself

 

We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.

– Carl Sagan

And that is literally true. We are – quite literally – the cosmos knowing itself.

We are the local eyes, ears, feelings and thoughts of the universe, bringing itself into awareness.

As a kid, this shifted my perception of everything, and it still does. It brings a sense of awe into the most ordinary of experiences and activities.

Gods and people

 

It’s said that men may not be the dreams of Gods, but that the Gods are the dreams of men.

– Carl Sagan, Cosmos

Words – including any form of philosophy – can be helpful (a) as a way to identify beliefs, and (b) as pointers for own exploration.

So I can say that reality (God) dreams up a world, this world, what’s here. That dream includes images of being a human and identification as that image. And as this apparent human, reality dreams up a wide range of Gods, all images and projections of what’s already here.

And that’s not really helpful until I explore it for myself, for instance through The Work, sense field explorations, or the Living Inquiries.

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It is said that men may not be the dream of gods….

 

It is said that men may not be the dreams of the gods, but rather that the gods are the dreams of men.
– Carl Sagan in Cosmos, The Edge of Forever

Both may be true.

Men are the dream of gods. This human self, and all human selves, appear within and as awareness, within and as capacity for all there is.

Am I within content of experience, or is experience within me?

Gods are the dreams of men. Our images of gods – of anything – are images only. They are our dream.

When we take them as true, they seem real. When we see them as images only, they are just that – images.

Compassion and meaning through the story of evolution

 

evolution4

A friend of mine is a psychologist, and in a recent conversation, she expressed a dislike for evolutionary psychology. In her view, it justifies a cynical and sometimes brutal view on humans.

As any story, the story of evolution is a tool, and it can be used in many different ways.

It is true, some have used a particularly distorted versions of Social Darwinism to justify brutality and injustice. The Nazis are probably the most extreme example.

And yet, the story of evolution can also be used with great wisdom and compassion, as a support for ourselves and others, and even for non-human species and future generations. And more and more scientists, psychologists and others are catching on to this.

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