Meteors and reality checks: Our Universe is very vast, and very humbling

The news of asteroid 2012 DA14 expected to approach Earth closer than any celestial object recorded ever by NASA would have been enough, but the Universe had prepared for us a much more powerful reminder of our fragility as a species: A meteor crashing against our planet. An event that even the most seasoned astronomers at NASA and ESA did not foresee, and one that therefore caught mankind by surprise. But really, is there anything we could have done to prevent it? The answer is likely a resounding no. Is there anything we can do to prevent this from happening in the future? Perhaps not, although there is indeed room to improve ourselves and our species from the lessons learned out of this phenomenon.

Analyzed from a strictly social point of view, the event is tragic and its painful impact is noted: Thousands of people resulted injured as a result of the crash of the meteor in the nearby city of Chelyabinsk, in Russia, where damages were calculated in over $33 million dollars. And all that we humans could do about it was to sit, watch, and repair the damages after the event.

russian-meteor_0

Photo: Tumblr

This rare event, however, is more than an isolated astronomical incident. If we go a step further and put the incident in a philosophical perspective, we will discover that the message is much more powerful that the only impact of the meteor itself: It is a powerful, direct, and clear reminder that there is a Universe out there. But that Universe is not an empty space unrelated to us, and we are not rulers over the Universe. All the opposite: We are part of this powerful Universe, a magnificent Universe with the ability to damage us or even make us vanish in a whim.

The sudden crash of this meteor offers a great wake-up call for us to reconsider our lives from both a personal and civilization-level perspective. What is our role in this Universe? What do we want to achieve during our relatively short existence here? What are we doing to make ourselves better?

There is another important message to take away from this event: This meteor came to remind us that Earth is just a planet, perhaps a vulnerable one, yet our protective home. Are we respecting Earth as such, or are we too busy abusing it for the sake of money and egoism? Are we working together as a species for the shared well being of mankind, or are we a rather fragmented civilization thirsty for power and dominance over other humans? What, exactly, are we looking for as a species?

Before taking on the massive task of finding our goal as a species, it will certainly take some time for each of us to think about our own personal roles in society, and to discover our potential to become better individuals – not with the intent of being better than others, but to be better towards our fellow humans. Hopefully that way, someday, our societal mindset will focus on the single goal of making of mankind and Earth better places. Who knows, maybe that is our reason to exist in this powerful Universe.

Our egoism has no place in the Universe

In our pursuit of happiness, we become blind. We forget that we are just a piece of the puzzle, and not the puzzle as a whole. We are just a part of the Universe, and not the Universe as a whole.

Is it possible that we are here only to serve our egoism and pride?

Is it possible that we are here only to serve our own illusions and inventions?

We were created in this world, with magnificent attributes, with unprecedented consciousness,

We were blessed with every component of intelligence to connect with the Universe that surround us,

We were created as one – as a single species, in charge of caring for a whole world.

What have we done for it? Have we made it prey of our own inventions and desires?

Money for the sake of money. Wealth for the sake of wealth. Power for the sake of being better than other fellow humans, for the sake of displaying individual dominance over them and over the world that was given to us. Is that our idea of success? Is that out idea of happiness?

outer-space-station

If we were visited by other inhabitants from the Universe, we would be none but their laughingstock. We are prey of our own inventions, of our own desires, of our own self-created idea of wealth. We do not value our world as our home – we value it for the economic wealth we can exploit from it, from the personal riches that we can acquire by abusing it… our own home. Our only one. And as we rape our home, we wonder whether there are other places in the Universe where we can thrive as a species – but not with the intention to flourish and make of them better places, but with the very and only intention of continuing the exploitation for the very sake of profits and financial wealth – a product of our minds.

Meanwhile, a whole Universe looks upon us… perhaps we are the missing link that will help the Universe as a whole to complete its mission. Or perhaps we are not. If we only were able to forget about our own egoism in the first place, and look upon the well being of our species as a species, and not as individuals, we would maybe find out…

The world did not end, but are we slowly ending with it? President Jose Mujica explains

December 21, 2012, will be remembered as yet another date when the always feared “end of the world” failed to happen. Theories ranging from massive earthquakes to floods, fire, and collision with massive asteroids and planets circulated proved to be wrong. It looks that the world is still spinning, and our duty to elevate this world to make it a better place is still valid and in place – and will remain as such for a while.

The rumours about the end of the world, then, turned out to be only that – rumours. But here is an interesting perspective to reflect upon: Why should the world end violently as a result of a natural disaster? Unfortunately, our species has taken a materialistic and selfish view of life, which has resulted in greed, war, and consumerism. Are we not, then, slowly contributing to the end of the world as it was meant to be?

On this regard, Jose Mujica, President of Uruguay, shared his views about this subject earlier this year during the Rio+20 conference. His views helped to deliver one of the most beautiful, memorable and thought-provoking speeches recorded. I invite you to analyze his speech not from a purely economical/political perspective, but from a humanistic point of view. What should be our life priorities, as individuals?

The speech is in Spanish and it’s worth to listen from beginning to end. I have translated the full speech further below.


“Authorities attending from every latitude and organization, thank you very much. And thanks very much as well to the people of Brazil and its President. And thank you to all preceding speakers for showing their likely good intentions.

We, as governments, express the most intimate will to support all agreements that this, our poor human kind, can sign. However, let us ask loudly to ourselves some questions. This whole evening we have been talking about sustainable development, and about rescuing immense masses of people from poverty. What do we have in our minds? The development-consumption economic model observed by rich nations?

I wonder, what would happen to this planet if people in India had the same ratio of cars per family than Germans do? How much oxygen would be left for us to breathe? To be clear: Does the world today have enough material elements to make possible that 7 or 8 billion people can have the same degree of consumerism and waste that the most affluent western societies have? Is it feasible, or we might have to have a different type of discussion someday? Because we have created a civilization that is product of markets, product of competition, which has doomed itself to a purely materialistic and explosive development.

What have been market economies have created market societies, and has led us to this globalization. But are  we ruling globalization, or is globalization ruling us? Is it possible to talk about solidarity and unity within an economic model that is based solely in ruthless competition? How far does our fraternity reach?

I don’t say any of this to deny the importance of this event. It’s all the opposite: The challenge that lies ahead of us is of a colossal magnitude, and the big crisis is not environmental, but political. Man does not rule today the forces that he has unleashed, but those forces that man has unleashed rule over man and life. Because we don’t come to this planet just to develop on general terms, we come to this life to be happy, because life is short and it goes by. No commodity is worth more than life, and this is basic. But life will pass by me while I work and work only to obtain a surplus, and the consumerist society is the engine -because, definitely, if demand is paralyzed or stopped, then economy is stopped, and if economy is stopped, the phantom of stagnation is all upon us.

But that hyper consumerism, in turn, is an aggressor to our planet, and in that model of hyper consumerism we need to produce goods that last short because we have to sell lots of them. Then a lightbulb cannot last longer than 1000 hours on – even when we have developed lightbulbs that can last 100,000 or 200,000 hours on. But those ones cannot be manufactured because market is an issue, because we have to work and we have to sustain a use-and-dump civilization. We are in a vicious cycle. These are political problems that tell us about the need to start fighting for a different culture.

This is not about coming back to becoming cavemen, nor to build a monument to backward mentalities. It is just that we cannot continue to be ruled by the markets indefinitely. It is us who have to rule the markets. That’s why I say that this is a political issue in my humble way of thinking. Because ancient thinkers -Epicurus, Seneca, the Aymara people- defined that “a poor person is not he who has few goods, a real poor person is he who needs infinitely a lot”, and wants and needs more and more and more. This is a cultural key, then.

I salute the efforts and agreements that are made, and as a head of state, I will support them, because I know that a few of the things I am saying here are “creaking”. But we need to realize that the crisis of water, the crisis of aggression to the environment are not the causes of the problem. The cause is the civilization model that we have shaped, and what we need to revise is our lifestyle.

Why? I am from a tiny country blessed with natural resources to live. In my country, there are 3 million inhabitants – slightly more, 3.2 million. But there are some 13 million cows, some of the best in the world, and some 8 or 10 million sheep. My country exports food, dairy products, meat. Almost 90% of its territory is arable.  My worker fellows fought a lot to get 8 hours of work per day, nowadays they are getting 6 hours per day! But he who gets 6 hours of work a day is also getting an additional job and, therefore, works more than he did before. Why? Because he has to pay numerous bills: the little scooter he bought, the little car he bought, and he pays installments, and he pays more installments, and when he wants to change that… he realizes that he has become a rheumatic old man like myself, and his life is begone. And the immediate question comes to mind: Is that the fate of being a human?

These concepts are very basic, development cannot go against happiness. It has to work in favour of happiness, of love, of human relations, of looking after our children, of having friends, of having the very basic! Precisely, because that is the most important treasure that we have. When we fight for environment, the first element in the environment is called ‘Human Happiness’. Thank you.”

Rio de Janeiro, June 22, 2012

Controlling our Self-bias

When talking about colours, it is not uncommon to hear that white is the absence of all colours, while black is the mix of all colours. In other words, we could say that white is the nothing while black is the everything. They are so distant, so opposite. And yet, both are inevitably dependent on all other colours, and their existence  – or non-existence thereof.

Ying Yang

This analogy applies wonderfully when we speak about our perception of the world – and our power to influence it: good and bad, right and wrong, success and failure, everything and nothing. In a way, the concept of all of them is the absolute “presence” or “absence” of a certain element. For example, based on the dictionary definition of success, the concepts of success and failure can be understood as the absolute presence of a favourable outcome or the absolute lack of it. The same rationale would apply for all other seemingly opposing forces in our world.

But since they depend on common attributes, they can’t totally oppose each other. Rather, we can understand them from a brand new perspective: Just as the existence of black and white is dependent on the existence or non existence or other colours, the existence or non existence of forces like success-failure, good-bad, rich-poor, happy-miserable, and so forth, depends on our own perception – and the degree of positivity or negativity that we apply to them – what we can dub the self-bias.

On that note, if we reflect upon us and try to determine whether we are happy or unhappy – it will depend entirely on what factors we consider to measure our happiness. The absolute lack of positivity when judging ourselves self-biased (thoughts like “I’m not good enough at doing this or that, I’m not intelligent enough, I have unpaid debts, I haven’t accomplished my new-year resolutions, and so forth) will have a very different outcome than the absolute presence of it (I have food to eat at my table every day, I have shelter and clothing to protect myself of the weather, I live in a peaceful community, I have good health, etc), which of course makes every one of us owners of our own perception and our own happiness.

The power to be happy and to shape your world is in your hands – and in your mind! Awaken it and live a full life from now!