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Monday, January 28, 2013

C'mon. Be happy!

You wrote to me:

Its more like I WANT there to be a reason for my existence. I don't want to just become dust and thats probably why I'm not satisfied by this belief. To think that beyond the seventy-eighty years that I'll live, I'll have no purpose and its all science and I'll just die and go nowhere - when I think of myself that way I barely feel alive.

I'm not satisfied thinking there is NOTHING out there. I've never been good with accepting that there is no answer in any aspect of life. I guess I'm just looking for something more! 

I thought that was a rather poorer way of looking at things. It seemed, first, to focus about you. Only you. Surely if you were a writer, like Homer, you'd be remembered thousands of years later (in some parts of the world). If you were Da Vinci, your work would be recognized for centuries (again in some parts of the world). If you were a philosopher, like Aristotle, your words would be found and repeated in many parts of the world for years. But, then, you could also be a tyrant, like Genghis, and Adolf, and Zia and have your tales told for a long, long time. The universe, itself, does not seem to worry about your being good or bad. People do, but depending upon their own views. Some write praises for Adolf today. More than them there are others who detest him. There are even nutcases who think Zia was a great leader. There are several who hate him.

I live in the same world and I am glad that I hope to leave it better than it was when I began … in some small way. I see no advantage to my name being remembered much after I die. A few friends will, for a few years. My daughter will, for longer. But so what? That doesn't do a dead me any good, does it?

I don't know if what I write after this will help you solve any problems that you may have built up and are thinking of. But this is what I wanted to say to you:

If the lights are off in your city some night - so the neon signs are absent - you could look up at the sky and see the Milky Way (Kahkashaañ in Urdu). If any of you live in a place where these awful multi-coloured neon signs are not there, you can see this galaxy shining away on most nights.

My father was born in 1900: He was 14 when WW1 started, 18 when it ended. That was less than a century ago. I was really surprised to learn that in 1918, the only galaxy that we knew of in space was The Milky Way (Latin: via lactea). Imagine! We thought all the other little fluffy things in the Milky Way were clouds and nebulae, gases and dust … and, possibly, smaller stars,. All within that one galaxy.

In 1919 Edwin Hubble started puzzling the world with new ideas of space. He told us in 1923 "that a puff of distant gossamer in the Andromeda constellation known as M31 wasn’t a gas cloud at all but a blaze of stars, a galaxy in its own right, a hundred thousand light-years across and at least nine hundred thousand light-years away. The universe was vaster—vastly vaster—than anyone had ever supposed."*  The next year he produced a paper that said that the Universe consisted of more than the Milky Way. It had lots of independent galaxies, some of which were bigger than the Milky Way and were much further away from us. Wow!

In 1990 we launched a telescope that we named after Hubble.
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Now we estimate that there are at least 140 billion galaxies in the 'visible' universe. That is a really huge number. Imagine if each galaxy was represented by a frozen pea, the number of peas laid end to end would fill the Royal Albert Hall and a bit more.

Let us leave our Space for a while and talk of something much smaller: The atom! A half a million of atoms lined close together could hide behind a piece of the human hair. Isn't that really, really minute? Think again: At sea level, at 32°F, one cubic centimeter of air (almost just under a small sugar cube) will have 45 billion billion molecules. Each of them would have an atom in it that would be almost one 10-millionth of a millimeter! 

Richard Feynman was asked what he would say if he had to reduce scientific history to one important statement. He said, "All things are made of atoms." They are everywhere and in everything. Even in the spaces between things.

And they are durable! "Every atom you possess has almost certainly passed through several stars and been part of millions of organisms on its way to becoming you. We are each so atomically numerous and so vigorously recycled at death that a significant number of our atoms—up to a billion for each of us, it has been suggested—probably once belonged to Shakespeare. A billion more each came from Buddha and Genghis Khan and Beethoven, and any other historical figure you care to name. "*

We are al re-incarnations. When we die, the atoms will disassemble and move away to new places. A small spec in a flower. A part of the lovely dewdrop. Or the skin of a laughing hyena. Who knows!

Isn't this magical. More than the lovely-but-false tales that the stories of our creation and miracles and non-evidence stories tell us? Get Richard Dawkins The Magic of Reality and see for yourself.

As Carl Sagan said in Cosmos - "We are Starstuff!"

(* Bill Bryson's A Short History Of Nearly Everything).

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Blogger Zain said...

One of my problems is seeing dreams of the future, which are much irrelevant. How can one have such dreams? The clinical neuropsychologists talk all good about dreams which are due to the ultra fast and uncontrolled signal processing of millions of neurons of the human brain (and hence contemplation of bits of thoughts and ideas brewing something new, a random dream), but future vision? Or a reality vision of a distant being we are not directly connected with? Is there another, spiritual realm? One which is above and beyond the material realm?

29 January, 2013 11:03

Anonymous Soraya said...

[Part 1/2]

I strive to be a person who can make a difference in this world and like you, hope that one day when I am not alive, people will remember me fondly. This is what most people generally wish for. But you misunderstand me, and perhaps I wasnt exactly clear. (I have to admit, reading that excerpt from my email to you was embarrassing to say the least - unacceptable sentence structure combined with my wonderful gift of forgetting about the concept of punctuation,im sure whatever I was trying to say wasn’t a treat to decipher. To all those who now view me as a potential patient of Anxiety, ADHD, or some other neurological disorder- in my defense, I will say that it was an informal email written by a person consistently drifting in and out of sleep who,most importantly , was also completely unaware that it soon might, without a warning, go up on a public forum to be read by a lot of people who I have fooled to expect better of me)


My name being remembered by people after my death isn't my concern here at all. I am definitely not worrying about being forgotten. The internal struggle I’m facing which I spoke to you about has nothing to do with how or if people will remember me. (I mean,thatd be nice- but Im confident that Im loved and secondly like you said, I’ll be dead as a bird so how does it matter anyway?) I know that my body will decay, that Ill join the fascinating,endless cycle of our physical existence..that the atoms will move on to take other forms and I agree! Its a billion times more intriguing than the sweet & unbelievable tales that you KNOW I don’t place my faith in! The problem is that I believe I have a soul – meaning, I believe that people have souls (No, not only me). The fact that the journey for my soul will simply suddenly end with my physical demise is what I am unable to find peace with. That there is no next step for me after my death. Our deaths. This seems too...incomplete. A beautiful but distressingly unfinished story. Too barren a thought for me to adopt. It’s much too…abrupt. So it’s where our souls might go and the concept of nothing happening after we die is what I wonder about and struggle with.

30 January, 2013 22:47

Anonymous Soraya said...

[Part 2/2]

There is one more thing which bothers me and it is something I don’t quite know where to place. I don’t believe that this conservative version of heaven and hell exist. But studying the law I have had to look at disgusting people who have committed disgusting crimes-things which sometimes make it hard for me to sleep peacefully! More than the crimes, though, what haunts me is the amount of people and the ease with which they get away with committing them. They walk away scot-free, and this is when I long for some kind of natural justice...I want to believe that even though they have lucked out this time, somewhere along the road they will repent. The universe might not be concerned with if we are good or bad, but I can’t help that that idea paints a very hollow and bleak image for me.
My imagination often gets the best of me. And to many people that is my greatest weakness; but it is because of imagination and intrigue that humans found that the Milky Way wasn't the only galaxy to exist in the universe, that we can travel to the moon and back, that atoms make up everything. We seem to be on a constant search for something or the other. WHAT exactly are we looking for? I think at the very core of it all, lays the question of why we exist, or where we came from and to me, those questions are linked to what will happen once we die. When I do think about it all, this last one is the question which surrounds my thoughts a lot of the time and just because there is no real answer, I cannot accept that there is no real reason – basically all I’m saying is- I believe in the possibility of there being a next stage of “life” for our souls. I don’t think I’ll wake up and rise out of my body as Soraya Mahmood a la Ghost. It doesn’t have to be supernatural. But I feel like something must happen after we physically die. I feel like something should happen. Of course no one can prove whether or not anything happens, so it’s all about imagination, and mine isn’t coping well with the idea that our souls just..vanish in a single beat, or that we are without souls and that was the only real point that I was trying to convey to you.

As you may have guessed, my views on this subject are confused. Too many contradictory thoughts and ideas on this particular topic have been building up for months and are muddled together creating some kind of big nasty complicated tangled mess that I most of the time don’t feel like dealing with. Which unfortunately leads to events such as this where I frantically blurt out panicked sentences like “I’ll have no purpose and its all science and I’ll just die.” *cringe*

I have not dedicated enough time to research or think about what I feel about life, or death or the meaning of both of these things. This means that in the past I have literally been too lazy to sort my own thoughts out. Which is probably the epitome of laziness and admittedly totally despicable. Either way, it’s the truth. I have to delve much deeper into it before I can decide that I believe or don’t believe in something. This is just my beginning. Now when and if this delving shall occur is an entirely different thing, but it is only recently that I’ve given anything related to religion/God/beliefs/spirituality any concrete thought.
In the meantime, (now this may seem like an even poorer thought) I am seriously beginning to believe, that the best way of looking at it all,for me is to not care about what comes next. And for the most part, I think I don’t. I think what is most important for me is to live in the present – is to think about the now. I hope that there is something out there after we die,and to me it is more likely that there will be. But of course,it is just as possible that there is,in fact nothing. So I guess we can only contemplate, because there is no definite answer and I can’t see there ever being one.
Thanks for the blogpost and for always taking the time out to explain things to me! It means a lot and trust me, I always learn something new. Love and hugs and kisses. xxx

30 January, 2013 22:49


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