I finished reading this book –Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson 2 months ago, just after Cosmos by Carl Sagan. I’ve been wanting to write something about the perspective that these two books share, but I think it’s already a two-years plan by now, after several tries only ended up just as another draft, piling up and never published. In the meantime, this pandemic lockdown situation gives me extra spare time to use, and I feel bad if I’m not using it to finally post something about this one.
Oh, and also, I met someone special who was with me when I got this book, and also who nicely being my partner discussing about the content of these two books. I can’t stick to the main topic, but it’s a story worth its own blog.
When I was 9 years old, I stumbled upon a book of my father’s. The title read Samudra Al-Fatihah. The cover was worn out, and I don’t quite remember what made me spent hours reading a chapter from that book. But I remember what I read, because that was my oldest memory, the first time my mind being blown away learning about the grandeur of the universe. I learned about how atomic motions were parallel to the planetary and galactic ones. I learned about the tiniest scale of the micro cosmos, to the remarkable scale of the universe. And eventually, I learned about this way of looking at the cosmos, that put everything in my daily life into perspective.
I was a third grader, and suddenly all of those new insights made me realize that under the cosmic perspective, my homeworks were all minuscule and significantly insignificant. Just kidding. I mean, the childish me was surely a kid who thought that school, playing with my friends was all that matters. But learning that even the planet that I live on was a dust amongst the stars and galaxies, I was washed by the realization that all the things that I previously thought were important, turned out it’s not.
As a kid, sometimes I felt this gap between my thoughts of the universe and the chores that I had to deal with. I mean, the cosmos wouldn’t care if I made my bed or not. But it’s just a childish thinking, and I think it grew with how mature I was, with more wisdom that I learned from other lessons and persons.
I’m not alone in this experience. I believe I share this similar story with everyone who learned about the stars and the universe for the first time. It doesn’t matter at what age they learned about it. The sensation is always humbling. You practically put everything down when you realize that that it’s all nothing compared to what’s happening cosmically. It is what I remind myself with whenever I felt a reason to be arrogant about. This is what makes the phrase “down to earth” has way deeper meaning. It’s also what made me curious about the stars and every new finding in Astronomy to this day. And I never looked back since.
I like to think that more people, if not all, have to experience this as well. I like to imagine if this cosmic perspective being taught systematically in schools. It doesn’t necessarily have to teach about how to calculate the brightness and distance of the stars, but it has to put the wisdom to every child that will grow to become leaders in the future. Once we share this understanding that we all live in the same tiny world floating in the vastness of universe, I think that is the time when every dispute and conflict will resolve itself by putting aside our differences. I don’t want to talk naively, but I want to imagine the best we could be.
Reflections on the Cosmic Perspective
I’d like to end this short blog by sharing you a chapter of this book. More of what I wanted to say had been eloquently written by Mr. Tyson in this final chapter. It’s the best part of the book, and I want you to spare your time for a couple of minutes to read this part. After that, go explore it yourself.
Embrace the cosmic perspective.
P.S. “Hozhoni” is a Navajo word, meaning happiness, oneness with the universe, right feeling, right thinking and arrival at a peaceful place.