One of the activities that I enjoy most doing in a pitch dark night is stargazing. The reasons why I do this are many; stars look like tiny sparks of light shining in the otherwise empty-looking black sky. They also form constellations. It is very exciting to sit outside blanketed by the darkness of the night sky and find those shapes and characters that ancient civilizations also observed in the sky, therefore naming groups of stars after the shapes they seemed to form. It is also exciting to see the shiniest spots of light in the dark sky, and figuring whether what I am seeing is a star or a neighbouring planet. There are literally millions of celestial bodies to be observed in a good night, assuming there is little or no light pollution in the surroundings.
Looking at the stars, however, is more than just admiring their beauty and figuring the shapes they form together. Our ancestors studied the relationship between our human lives, our world, and the universe they could see from Earth. For centuries, sages dedicated their lives to stargaze and find not only beauty in the sky above, but also finding answers and meanings to whatever they observed in the sky, and the impacts that those relationships had in humans and our everyday lives. As such, they developed profound studies in various sciences like physics and astronomy, and in other mystical fields of study like astrology. The kind of knowledge they acquired through their studies was not only impressive, but lasting enough that most of it has been transmitted throughout generation, and is still appreciated and studies in our times.
Thanks to the studies that ancient and contemporary sages performed about the night sky, we have today a much better understanding of what we are actually looking at whenever we stargaze at night. We understand that there are not thousands or millions, but billions of stars in the observable universe around us. We also understand that there are there are constant physical and chemical reactions among the heavenly bodies that take place every second; yet, some of them are so large and so distant that we cannot live long enough to truly appreciate their ultimate impact in both our lives and in the course of the universe as a whole. Stars, constellations, galaxies, planets, clouds and other bodies are in constant motion, shaping and reshaping astronomical knowledge as we know it.
Most of us, however, are normal mortals without a deep understanding of the forces that move the universe. Most people do not have a deep understanding of physics, chemistry, astronomy, astrology, nor any of the other sciences that rule the relationship among celestial bodies. Yet this does not imply that average people, like you or me, cannot appreciate in great awe the beauty and greatness of the universe that surrounds us. At the end of the day, every single person, animal, object and phenomenon that we could ever fathom is intrinsically related to the universe that we were formed from – whose fate is linked to ours.
Our relationship to the universe is not only physical. While it is true that each of the atoms that form our body can be traced back to some distant relative in the universe (that is, a star, a planet, a quasar or whatever not), our links to the vast infinity of the universe go well beyond merely that. Our minds are also deeply related to it. As a result, our thoughts, emotions and moods are also related to the greatness of the universe, and whatever phenomena happens in there can potentially have an effect in our personae. Our mindset is not necessarily ruled directly by the cosmos above, however there is a fine link whereby we can be affected by cosmic forces in a multidimensional fashion.
Appreciating the universe that surrounds us, therefore, can have some benefits in ourselves. First of all, it can help us realize that we are really small as compared to the enormous cosmic reality, and our existence is therefore very limited. This, however, does not imply that our lives are meaningless and not worth maximizing – in fact, all the opposite: We should, and must, ensure that we make the best out of our limited time we are to spend in this great universal puzzle. However, it should also help us realize that mankind, as a species, is but a blip in the universe, and as such we should perhaps spend less time hating among ourselves and invest more effort in realizing that we are, after all, allies in this cosmic reality – and our mission as a species is a common one.
The universe around is very vast, and stargazing during a good, dark night, allows us to appreciate only a small fraction of the universe that lies beyond us. More importantly, it helps us to understand an undeniable fact about ourselves: We, as individuals, are small. Very small. We are tiny when compared to the enormous cosmos around us. And if we are this small, is it worth to worry excessively about our everyday issues? Are we powerful enough that we can equate ourselves to the power of the universe? We might understand our roles in our jobs, in our communities, but what exactly is our role at large, when considering the universe as a whole?
The answers might not be obvious or readily available to us. However, spending a good hour stargazing and meditating upon the celestial bodies we observe on a nice dark night can give us a hint of the answers we are looking for. The beauty of the cosmos around us is infinite, but if we commit a good portion of our time to decipher how it is related to us and we can meditate upon how the cosmos affects our lives, we will be able to find answers to both our most profound and most mundane questions we can reflect upon. Guaranteed.