This is one of the most prolific things I have read in a long time. It is an excerpt from Carl Sagan's book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. Sagan reflects on the appearance of the Earth the above photograph taken by Voyager 1 in 1990 at that he himself requested.
"From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it's different. Look again at that dot. That's here, that's home, that's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."
Wednesday, 17 August 2011
0fKBhvDjuy0 WE ARE MERELY PARTICLES OF MATTER THAT ARE SELF AWARE...
Tuesday, 16 August 2011
I recently watched Did God Create the Universe? the latest episode on the Discovery Channel series Curiosity. The topic was fascinating and prompted the rusty wheels in my brain to start turning. Being the philosophy junkie that I am I researched this esoteric topic further. The discussion of black holes is what really did it for me. Theoretically, black holes are regions in space where the gravitational pull is so extreme that all the particles within it are crushed together so that nothing, not even light can escape. Air, the essential element sustaining all living and breathing creatures on our unique planet cannot exist without space. Space does not exist inside a black hole; therefore neither does movement. The need for perpetual motion is shared by many professional athletes, dancers and yogis alike because movement makes us feel alive. If Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant scientific minds of our century is correct and we are in fact mere collections of fundamental particles of nature, the same particles that comprise all matter, what makes us so remarkable? The fact that we have come this close to an understanding of the laws governing us and our universe is incredible! If such impressive strides in the unveiling of the great mysteries of our universe have already been made, can science ultimately piecemeal a theory for Creation or a Divine Creator? If scientific reasoning leads to the discovery of our own creation is it safe to say we are responsible for our own destiny?
Monday, 15 August 2011
After a Sunday of allowing myself the brief indulgence of wallowing in my perceived afflictions, I stumbled upon a special on a Discovery Channel special: Did God Create the Universe? I've always been a philosophy junkie so I was hooked immediately. The argument presented by Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant scientific minds of our century, goes something like this: The law of gravity was the catalyst for the Big Bang Theory; the Big Bang literally spawned something out of nothing; therefore spontaneous creation is the reason that something, rather than nothing exists, that is why we exist. If this is indeed the case, there is no need to invoke the notion of a Divine Creator. Pretty radical stuff!
Over the centuries human beings have been able to utilize the laws of nature to make mind blowing discoveries like learning that the Earth actually orbits the Sun and not the other way around. The laws of nature are observable and tangible phenomena that create the fundamental reality of our existence; a reality studied tenaciously by scientists in hopes of one day understanding it fully. The fact that other planetary bodies have been found orbiting stars other than our own sun also make "coincidences of our planetary conditions – the single sun, the lucky combination of Earth-sun distance and solar mass – far less remarkable." The Big Bang Theory marks the beginning of time in the history of our universe and if Hawking is correct, a God could not have created the universe because there would be no time reference for the universe to be created in. This theory simultaneously shreds the possibility of an afterlife. The manifestation of our physical existence is it. Are you grateful? Are you sad? Are you angry? What if this is all she wrote folks?
Monday, 08 August 2011
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Wednesday, 11 May 2011
You re-watch the Matrix for three reasons: to drool over Keanu Reeves (and his less than awesome one-liners); to generate a friendly debate by doing some philosophical decoding; or both. My interest in the field of artificial intelligence began over a decade ago as a freshman in college. I became fascinated with the idea that the mind and the body and how these two seemingly different entities could somehow produce a conscious being. Some AI theories propose that machines will some day become so sophisticated that they’ll take over and render the human species obsolete. Another theory purports that we’ll become cyborgs some day in the very near future because machines and humans will coalesce into one. There is some truth to both theories. When a machine becomes capable of performing a function it was previously incapable of performing we don’t perceive that as “consciousness” and we dismiss this as artificial intelligence; it simply becomes another “technological breakthrough.” But postulate this: machines are more sophisticated than we give them credit for. Surely machines don’t tell you how to live your life…or do they? Take a look at your iphone. How many apps to do you have? How many times have you screened your calls? Before cell phones and ipads and even caller ID how could you know who was calling you? You had to answer the phone. So you see, in some ways machines dictate how we communicate, with whom, in what way, how often and so on. Is this not a form of control? When it boils down to it the machines we build are a reflection of the human species. We project our own desires and flaws onto the machines we create. Whether conscious of this fact or not we use the machines to learn about our own behaviors and from this very important process we evolve.
So what the hell does this have to do with yoga? Nothing and everything all at once. When we first learn the asanas in yoga we learn the how, not the why. The why aspect comes later and that’s where the waters get murky. Science in general deals with the question of how and not why… that’s where philosophy knocks. Science isn’t concerned with why an apple falls, i.e. gravity only with the rate at which it falls and this can be represented by the equation 9.8m/s2. Representations of “reality” are sufficient for science. It becomes a question of syntax versus semantics. The same is true for yoga or any other craft. You can learn thousands of yoga asanas and execute them with utmost virtuosity, but why do you do them in the first place? How does the practice of yoga make you feel? These sort of questions are not so easily answered. Delineating the proper alignment of the feet and the pelvis in Virabhadrasana II is not hard, but modeling the various effects of the pose after one or several people is futile; therefore there is no “wrong” experience. You don’t hear of yoga instructors going around asking students in the class “How do you practice your Trikonasana?” But you will hear the instructor ask how the poses make you feel. If you ask an entire class of yogis why they practice yoga, the number of different responses would be overwhelming. However, if you ask the same group of yogis to teach or describe the components of a particular asana you would get nearly the same response from each practitioner.
Tuesday, 15 March 2011