The Milky Way Galaxy seems to rise out of the mountaintop on the horizon, while meteorites zip toward it in this fantastic photograph taken at twilight. The sheer beauty of the Universe is often offset by the contemplation of the dangers lurking in the depths of space. We are bombarded with documentaries on television that seem intent upon scaring the bejesus out of us. Quasars, Pulsars, Black Holes, Coronal Mass Ejections, Rogue Planets, Deep Impacts, Asteroids, Meteors, Comets, Alien Invasion and numerous other potentially life-extinguishing conditions and objects have become the topics of everyday conversation in most first-world households.
I say first-world because there are millions of people on earth even as I write that have no ear, no eye, no need, and/or no want for science or anything to do with it. They are still just trying to get an idea of where their next meal will come from. It is hard for some to believe that there are still primitive, so-called “Lost Tribes” living deep in the jungles who have never communicated with people outside their limited environs. It’s hard for many to believe that people actually believe in God or multiple Gods, but they do. It’s hard for most civilized people to believe that there are so many people out there who want to kill other people simply because they look or act differently or, God Forbid! believe differently.
I have always hoped and dreamed that someday in the not too distant future we could all live in peace and harmony and combine our various talents, skills and beliefs in creative efforts aimed at bettering our conditions here on earth. I had hoped we would expand our horizons beyond the confines of our solar system and actually ‘go where no man has gone before’ in my lifetime, but the older I get, the more I realize I will not be seeing it with these particular eyes.
There is, however, something I can do with these eyes besides cross them and see double. I have tried very hard to perfect the technique over the past few years. I have learned to see things from different perspectives; to not only think outside the box, but place my perspective outside the box as much as humanly possible. As I move through my particular layer of global society, I often bumped into people with vastly different opinions and viewpoints. I had to try to reconcile the views of these ‘strange and unusual’ people with my own view of the world. When I found it impossible to juxtapose their views on my views in any sort of coherent fashion, I had to appreciate the idea that I just might know everything (an astounding discovery and not one made by many folks in general.)
In looking at the image of the Milky Way apparently ascending the night sky from out of the interior of the earth, I imagined myself a primitive man, sitting in front of my cave or tent or tee-pee or whatever, enjoying this same view. I might have believed the celestial objects in his night sky were stored by day and only allowed out when the sun returned to its home inside the earth. Certainly, it would make sense to me if I had no scientific education at my disposal. If you can suspend your own ‘superior’ knowledge for a few moments, it is easy to see where my primitive idea derives. If you can see this, if you can manage to glimpse inside the mind of an ancient man, then you can put yourself into the mind’s eye of any person on this earth right now. That primitive tribesman living in the jungle becomes accessible. The Muslim woman preparing dinner over an open fire is suddenly real. That poor, starving child scavenging for food in a dump in Brazil is sitting next to you.
All you need is a little background information about that person, a willing mind and a touch of imagination. It’s not hard. I’m not saying you can feel what they feel. If you’ve never lived in the jungle, you cannot know what it is like. If you’ve never been a Muslim, or a woman or cooked over an open fire, you cannot know her pain. If you have never starved and lived in filthy conditions, you cannot truly appreciate the despair in the child’s eyes, but you can imagine what the world must look like to any of them.
The problem stems from the fact that people are bereft of the second requirement: a willing mind. People in my experience would rather stand by their own views, their own beliefs and their own stubborn need to be right no matter what logic says and no matter what the facts may be. When such closed-minded, self-important, self-centered, culturally ingrained and biased people are pushed to validate their views, they resort to personal offense and dismay (blaming others, obstinance and name-calling ). If that doesn’t work, they further to more and more primitive forms of rebuttal such as power-lays (name-dropping) and brute intimidation (body-slamming). It has always been this way; I am afraid it always will be. Oh, and don’t look around at the people you see and say ‘surely I’m not one of these’ because, unless you have the ability and willingness to suspend your cultural beliefs and disregard your education and step outside your personal comfort zone, you will never be able to really understand the diversity in this one tiny part of the Universe, much less will you ever be able to accept it.