|buddhism and astronomy
||[Jun. 2nd, 2011|07:52 pm]
Destroyer of Nations
There's this idea shared by some more famous astronomers (Carl Sagan, Neil DeGrasse Tyson) and some Buddhists. It's the idea that conscious experience is the universe experiencing itself subjectively.|
The universe experiencing itself subjectively.
Carl Sagan is explicit in this thinking. He says, "We're made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself". Neil Tyson echoes similar ideas, but generally seems more reserved about it.
And Buddhists say this as well.
It's a gorgeous idea.
When I'm with a patient who is going through crisis, who is depressed, who is psychotic, who is manic or paranoid or delirious, I always take a moment during our conversation to see this person as a little part of the universe, as much as my little mind is able. When I see a woman distraught that her kids are taking advantage of her, and she feels that it might be better to be dead than to deny their demands of her, I wonder what this says about the universe at large. I wonder what it says about our natural impulses. I wonder what it says about the behaviors of other forms of life (bacteria, rats, apes) to whom we are related, to with whom we share enormous swaths of genetic code.
And with the idea in mind that we are all small parts of the universe experiencing itself subjectively, I wonder what that says when people cut themselves and swallow knives. I wonder what it means that about 1% of Americans die by suicide. I wonder what it means when people love or hate other people and other things in the world. Or when people murder people. Or when people commit fucking genocide or drop their babies in boiling water.
But then there are jokes and laughter and smiling and hugs and kissing and syncopated beats and Rachmaninoff and Dali and Tarantino and fucking Homer and sex and goddamn orgasms.
And the creatures that do all of those things--the good and the bad (whatever those are)--are more alike than they are different. And they're all little bits of the universe. The same process that caused that tiny condensed thing to burst and expand and become everything--and I'm talking about the big fucking bang--that whole process is still going. Just like evolution, the process that is the big bang is still going on all around us and inside us and in everything that exists everywhere.
That fucking process leads to Rachmaninoff. That process leads to genocide and infanticide.
I gotta get back to the canvas.