Sunday, May 09, 2004


When I talk to people who are of a mystical bent, I often hear them speaking of attaining a sense of oneness with the cosmos. I will be the last person to deny the worth of their feelings. Often, however, I get the sensation that what they are describing is something symbolic and, perhaps, emotional. Something that is, for lack of a better word, spiritual. The feeling that they obtain is something that is supposed to allow them to transcend the bounds of mere reality. I can understand this desire. There is something about us that desires transcendence.

I have my own sense of oneness with the cosmos.

It would be easy enough to point to the world of living things and to note that there is not a creature that crawls, or flies, or swims on this Earth that we don't share a kinship with. It would be simply to say that we are cousins not only to the eagles and the elephants but, also, to the papayas and the paramecia. For reasons that I don't understand, many people find this to be a demeaning concept. They object to the nearly obvious observation that we are a species of ape. If people can be insulted by that high and noble association, I suppose that it should not surprise me that they would object to be called kin to ragweeds and fungi. More the pity.

Be that as it may, even if we embrace the unity of the biological world, there's a greater unity that makes this one seem parochial and incidental.

On some dark night, look up at the sky. If you are blessed by a paucity of light pollution, look at the great band of the Milky Way. Now look further. Look beyond your eyes and spin your imagination out to the true deeps of space. Hold in your minds eye those far and distant images that our telescopes have revealed to us. Imagine those galaxies whose light is only now reaching us after billions of years of patient transit.

Twelve billion years ago, or so, all of the things that would eventually become you was in immediate contact with every single thing that would become those magnificent, distant galaxies. This is not a metaphor. It is not poetry or a flight of fanciful symbolism. It is the literal truth. Everything in the universe was in direct contact with every other part. You have actually touched the stars, the planets, the galaxies and superclusters, and the entire whole of existence, even though you can't remember it.

This is where I find my sense of oneness with the cosmos. It is not transcendent. It is a thoroughly immanent thing as plain and profound as the feeling of my own skin. I think that it is more than sufficient.

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