Saturday, March 22, 2014

You are your Universe

Now that scientists have glimpsed the first whisperings of our universe—a trillionth of a second after it was born with supposedly a Big Bang, scientists are more willing to accept the idea of multiple and parallel universes. I like the idea of infinite space and infinite time. It eliminates the awkward question of what may be hidden beyond our Universe and what came before there was Time.

Not so long ago we thought of ourselves and mother Earth as the very center of the universe. Eventually though we came to admit that we are just a planet in a solar system, and not even a big planet. Now we know there are millions of solar systems and each is part of a giant galaxy. At night, when we look at a star-lit sky, we realize that there are millions and millions of galaxies traveling through space.

What actually is a universe? We can think of it as an independent body that functions on its own, yet has many ties and interconnections with the world around it.

Look at your dog. Isn’t he a universe unto himself too? He may be dependent on us for food and shelter, but he’s still autonomous. Do we really know what he thinks and what he feels? His eyes and tail communicate well his joy when we come home, or when we feed and walk him. But he still is himself, a world of his own.

It’s the same when you consider your child. Let me call her Ann so we can omit the he-or-she, him-or-her references. Ann may have her mother’s dimples, and her father’s temper, her grandfather’s musical talent and her grandma’s freckles, but she is not one of you. She is her own individual self, at times difficult to fathom even by her. She is her own universe.

And this brings us to ourselves. We are all a universe unto ourselves. Not two of us are alike. We all consist of blood and bones, and yet we are of such complexity and differences that doctors and researchers are constantly baffled. In addition, each of us is host to a microbiome of thousands of different species of life, all categorized as bacteria. The present estimate is about a hundred trillion of them. Each person may hear, see, feel and taste the same thing, and yet we form our own impressions, our own memories, our own thoughts.

We can never totally understand another person, but we can empathize. Empathy can help us to understand someone and to learn more about our species.

Likewise, no one can truly understand us, even though at times we wish someone would. Yet no one has ever walked in our shoes and experienced what we have. Each of us is a universe unto him- or herself. It may be tough to accept, and yet it is good to know that we are autonomous. It makes us more willing to accept others. They too are on their own, just like we are. The mere recognition of the autonomy of each person imbues us with a deep sense of respect for other human beings, each one another universe. In the parlance of our younger generation, it’s AWESOME. 

Until next time,