“The world is deep; deeper than day can comprehend.” -Friedrich Nietzsche.
Nietzsche’s statement is born out in the new James Webb telescope (JWT) image of deep space.
If you missed it, here it is:
The image contains thousands of galaxies like our Milky Way. It took light from the most distant galaxies in the image 4.6 billion years to reach the JWT’s mirrors, which means we are viewing them as they existed before the formation of Earth.
That’s difficult to comprehend!
The picture below was taken from the Hubble space telescope of a star cluster near the center of our own Milky Way galaxy:
For perspective, the Earth is 157 thousand trillion miles from the center of the Milky Way. Yet, on the JWT image, our Milky Way galaxy would be a tiny dot.
Unimaginably, the JWT image only covers an area of the sky the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length.
The images raise questions about the relevance of the human race and the meaning of our lives. What do we honestly know? Is the universe infinite? Did it really begin in a “big bang?” If so, what preceded its existence? Most of all, I am left with the impression that we surely can’t be alone!
This brings up another question. Recently a friend asked if I believe in God.
I think my friend was looking for a quick yes or no answer. But I didn’t feel I could adequately answer the question until I learned more about his beliefs and the context of the question. I suggested we discuss it over coffee or a beer sometime.
Religion is a troublesome area for conversation among people with divergent beliefs. Beliefs are imbued with culture, tradition, hierarchies, and laws. They engender powerful feelings and behaviors. Some of my friends reject any notion of God outright. Others (I was surprised to discover) don’t believe in evolution.
Beliefs are a personal matter of significant consequence. Throughout history, extreme violence, as well as charitable actions, have been instigated by belief.
I wasn’t sure what spawned my friend’s question, but it was worthy of a carefully considered response. NASA’s images provided a backdrop.
The first thing I noticed in the images was that things tend to “get together.” In the Hubble picture of the Milky Way, one can see the result of stars being drawn together.
In the JWT picture of deep space, stars collect into galaxies, appearing as a single point of light rather than being spread about randomly. Science informs us that this results from gravitational forces. But this “pull to union” appears to be a more universal condition.
On Earth, everything we see manifests from union. Hydrogen and oxygen unite to form water. Atoms collect into molecules. Molecules assemble into life.
A “pull to union” appears to impact social structures and psychological well-being as well. Pandemic-driven separation stimulated dramatic increases in social disease and deteriorating emotional well-being.
From this, I conclude that our understanding of “Self” as a separate entity is misguided and out of step. Love is a human manifestation of a mysterious force pulling us from I to We to One.
Beliefs determine not only how we look at life but what we see.
Scientists look at the world through the analytical lens of theory and proof. Artists view the world through the lens of aesthetic beauty. Healthy religion (religion motivated by love rather than exclusion) examines the world through the lens of Spirit.
I believe in the rational power of science. I believe in the subjective beauty of art. And I believe in the power of Spirit. I see these as varying attempts to understand a force we feel in our hearts.
In my view, the most important aspect of belief is how it motivates our actions. I experience greater joy and meaning when I surrender thoughts of separation and self-importance and allow myself to be drawn to the greater whole.
We name our beliefs in differing ways, but the ultimate test is whether or not they help us to see through the eyes of love.
Hopefully, that answers my friend’s question.
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