In less than a month we’ve seen bombings in Brussels, Turkey, Iraq and Lahore from twisted, psychopathic zealots who don’t even understand the religion they claim to stand for. Global warming continues to damage our ecosystem, and is denied vehemently by those who stand to gain by sticking their head in the sand. Refugees fleeing from slaughter are looked upon with the derision and suspicion, and with the same concern as locusts—a “swarm”, to quote British PM David Cameron. The potential candidate for ruler of the most powerful country in the world is a racist, sexist bully. And our desire for more and more has muted our spirit and clouded us from concern for anyone but ourselves.
In short, our world’s a bit messed up right now. Then again, our human history is full of messed up.
When the weight of the world’s problems get to me, I look up. At night, the façade of the dome of blue daylight sky fades away and reveals the heavens to remind us of what we really are. At night, the sky opens up into the expanse of the universe to remind us that we are small. To our eyes, those stars are mere specks. In reality, they are massive, burning orbs of plasma, with their own planets in their own galaxies.
When I look up at the stars, I see order. Things make sense. Everything is in its place, doing its thing, running perfectly and efficiently. Thousands of lightyears away, planets are revolving, galaxies are swirling, suns are burning. Those tiny specks are a complex system on their own.
When I look up at the stars, I see possibilities. The universe is full of mystery—how big is it? What’s at the center of a black hole? What if there are more universes than ours? And who knows, perhaps there’s intelligent life out there after all. Perhaps we’re not alone in looking up at those stars.
When I look up at the stars, I’m reminded that these stars, planets, galaxies are all part of a unique and perfectly tuned nature. I don’t believe the concept of “evil” exists in nature; a black hole isn’t evil because it destroys a planet; a lion isn’t evil because it eats a gazelle. Nature does what it’s programmed to do.
All of this order, possibility and nature from chaos. The Big Bang is a reminder that change take time; that chaos doesn’t last forever. But the end result is something magnificent.
When I look down from the stars, I have to remind myself that within this planet of ours exists within that same order, with those same possibilities, part of that same nature. For all the problems we cause on it, our planet is still home. It’s a finely turned system, and we’re a part of it. If, somehow, mankind were to disappear from it suddenly, the planet—the universe—wouldn’t weep for us. Our planet would just be a well-ordered miracle, floating in space.
When I look down from the stars, I have to remind myself that this planet also contains chaos. Within us is the potential to create evil. When we forget our place, our purpose, in this world and universe, we squabble and kill and hoard and manipulate our way to get to reach goals as vaporous as fame, power, glory. All of these things can be blown away with a whisper. Yet there is also, within us, the potential to do good. Ours is the only species that has pondered deeply on morality, so much so that it has become an intricate part of our being.
The Arabic word for “human” is insan, which carries the meaning of “one who has to be reminded”. We forget these things sometimes—that there exists beyond our human problems a nature and reality where every moment is miraculous. Where everything works exactly as it should: the planet still rotates; the sun still orbits the galaxy; the stars still shine. All as God intended it.
To remember these things, sometimes you need only look up.