Comprehending the Cosmos

     If the question of ‘when we came’ is passionately controversial, then the issue of ‘what we are’ is absolutely incomprehensible. Our Beginning is a complex topic of assumptions, calculations, and postulations with a variety of groups from tribes to religions to scientists claiming absolute knowledge and each discrediting the other’s claim of understanding and belief. When finally, we emerge out of the dispute with mixed emotions or even feel pleased that we have won the argument, we start looking around trying to understand who we are, where we are and what it is all about, we are led to an unconditional state of inexplicable awareness; an extremely astonishing status of alertness.
     The complexity of the Cosmos is stunning; way beyond comprehension and assimilation of human intellectual capacity. Each of us owes it to our own existence to periodically envisage the enormity and complexity of the immense family that we belong to and contemplate on the magical nature of the whole reality; or at least the notion of it all. Beyond the infinitesimally minute understanding of the immediate concept of our belonging, it will be fascinating to imagine, explore and dwell on the magnitude of our connections and the precise place we occupy in the enormous context of the colossal cosmos.
     Where should we even begin or attempt to begin? Should we start at the very outside of the farthest entity of our concept and zero in or is it more interesting to approach it from the deepest, the smallest entity and let our analysis grow outwardly and away to the limit of our imagination? Perhaps from the convenience 226 of reckoning an established standard, it may be prudent to initiate our exploration from the element that we understand and naively boast as ‘our body’. Assuming that unit to be the most admired and precious to most humans, it will be effortless for our imagination to soar in either direction as we attempt to locate our position in the grandiose design of existence. With the available assistance of modern technology and the information it can offer us, we presently have the ability and the luxury of enjoying an unprecedented understanding of our physical being as it relates to our surroundings. That perhaps is a meaningless assessment and statement as we begin to realize that the limits of our grasp of things could continue to vary as we progress in our ways of gathering more information. Anyone with any sense of reason and element of humility should easily arrive at the conclusion that our enthusiastic imagination and limitless urge for knowledge eventually fade into submission and a total surrender to an Ultimate Reality resting within our consciousness. With that notion assimilated and purely as an exercise of limited yet satisfying rewards, let us explore the perspective of our place within the vast confines of the cosmos.
     If we imagine traveling upwards and outwards into space, looking at our home the earth and enjoying our views at the power of ten at height, in meters, the sight can take us from micro to macrocosms. We can continue the trip as much as we desire until we get convinced about the limits of our knowledge or a clue about our ignorance. At about a meter height, we could see the leaves in a garden and at ten meters height, we see the foliage which at hundred meters becomes the extent of the forest. At a kilometer height, we see the land like from a parachute, but at ten kilometers the city is visible, but not the houses as units. At a hundredkilometer height, the shapes of states can be visible and at a thousand kilometers we get a view as if from a satellite. At 10,000 kilometers, we can see the shape of the globe with its curvature, the shapes of continents and oceans with the clouds in between. Ten times beyond that, the earth begins to appear small; at a million kilometers the orbits of the earth and moon appear white, which changes to blue when we travel to ten million kilometers. At a hundred million kilometers, orbits of Venus and earth appear and at a billion, that of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Jupiter can be visualized. At ten billion kilometers we see the solar system and the orbits of the planets which begin to appear small at a hundred billion kilometers. At a trillion kilometers, the sun becomes a small star in the middle of thousands of others. At the distance of one light year, the solar system becomes tiny and beyond ten light years, we do not see anything in the infinity. At a hundred light-years of distance, only nebulae of the spread of stars are visible and at a thousand light years, we get into navigating the ‘milky way’ of our galaxy. As we continue our sojourn to 100,000 light years, we begin to reach the periphery of the milky-way and at a million light years we can see the other galaxies as well. At ten million light-years of distance, the galaxies appear small with huge empty spaces.
     If we reverse the journey of imagination and dig deep inside the matter, we end up ultimately with the similar experience of emptiness. Inversely from our starting point of the leaves, we go to 10 centimeters, where we can differentiate the leaves, then at 1 cm. We can see the structure of the leaves and closer the cellular structure becomes obvious. At 100-micron level, the cells and their union become visible and at 1 micron the nucleus appears. Changing the unit, at the Angstroms level, we can see the chromosomes; at 100 Angstroms
     (10-8) DNA chain is visible and at 10 Angstroms chromosome blocks can be studied. At 1 Angstrom, clouds of electrons comprised of Carbon atoms that formed the world begin to be visible, thus the microcosm resembling the macrocosm. At 10 Picometers, we can see the electrons orbiting the nucleus and further down at 1 Picometer, we see an immense empty space between the nucleolus and the electron orbits. At 100 Centimeters, we see the nucleolus of the atom and at 10 to the power of -14, the nucleolus of the carbon atom can be observed. At 1 Centimeter, we are in the field of scientific imagination, face to face with a proton. Going even further down, at 100 Atometers level, we can examine the ‘quark’ particles beyond which there is nowhere to go, where we reach the limit of present scientific knowledge and the limit of ‘matter’.
     With the knowledge that we gained from our exploration, we can sit back and decide where we really belong, the center of the entity being ‘the human being’, the special creature of creation that he fits in the totality of existence. We can even strain our brains imagining what is beyond the limits of our imagination. Are we alone in the universe or are we part of an immense conglomerate puzzle? How much a single entity, the body, the mind, the intellect, and the soul and anything beyond that fits into the puzzle, can claim to be separate and functioning on its own? To what degree or extent can we claim to be controlling our own deeds, decisions, and outcomes, or are we made to believe that we are totally in control of our destiny. The reality, the truth, as we often address such a concept, will ever be revealed or will it ever remain an enigma to any intelligent understanding? Such an understanding may be exclusively reserved for a selected few soul with enlightenment bestowed on them or even be excluded beyond the grasp of the human mind and its limit of perception. Perhaps ‘the entity’ in control has meant it all along to keep that information beyond the concept and confines of perception.
     Interestingly, such information is a privileged subject that religions may want to explore but at the risk that such revelation may go against the theory and philosophy that may not be best suited for their promotion or even existence. It may appear prudent, even appealing and productive that if an earnest attempt is made by the various religious leaders with philosophical, altruistic inclination was to congregate, discuss, analyze and advocate a combined understanding and declare the outcome to the benefit of humanity in general. Perhaps such an effort is never initiated or attempted on grounds that the objective of religious entities is to stay independent, each claiming distinctive dominance and conceptually different ideologies.

Author: Dr. Venugopal Menon

Was born and raised in a loving family in pre-independent India, became a doctor, served Indian army, got married, then came over to America with wife and a daughter, established as a successful Allergist, raised a family of three children, was involved in many social establishments, retired, and wrote memoirs, 'My Mother Called Me Unni, A Doctor's Tale of Migration'.

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