April 2017 – Montreal
Stars are always shining billions of light-years away,
but you can’t see them during the day
If we could see the stars, if we could see the context of the universe in which we exist, if we could see how small each one of us is, then where would we be?
Life, as an attempt to scale the face of a mountain:
The path of the stable life I lived four months ago mostly consisted of choosing between a multitude of possible responsibilities that composed my strongholds to real life, allowing me to climb securely: friends, family, school. Each of these offered safety, security: a good future full of things I loved. But the sheer number of great possible holds overwhelmed me at times, and I found it difficult to climb quickly with a pack of expectations weighing down my back.
The life I’ve lived these past four months has allowed me to ascend untethered, light as a bird, with few holds grounding me to real life. And the vertigo I felt when a hold I once thought was stable fell out from under me was amplified to the extreme – I was sure I would fall, because I didn’t know what else I had to hold on to.
But I’ve learned to create new holds. Chisel them in one-by-one, changing the shakiest ones into the strongest. I’ve learned I can drop my own expectations to lighten the load.
The most important thing for me to keep in mind is that it’s my route. I determine what’s important to me: where I get to go, what I get to carry, and what I have to hold on to.
Mountain ranges are created when two continental plates of equal density come together. These two sturdily-built collections of earth fiercely challenge one another when they first come into contact, as they’re both trying to move in opposite directions. But since both plates are equally dense, neither can subduct – no matter how hard they fight, neither will naturally sacrifice its high ground to go under the other. Instead, they learn to work together, rising up over millions of years to create something far more impressive than either could have created alone. An incredible vista, visible from miles away. An inspiration to the whole entire world.
What would happen if, instead of pouring huge amounts of money, time, and energy into disagreements, strong-minded humans instead learned to work together to create something similarly unforgettable?
From the top of a mountain, everything seems clear. It’s easy to see the paths that the rivers take as they wind through the surrounding valleys, the same rivers that we now know carved the very mountain you’re standing on. But what did our view of the world look like before we climbed the mountain and learned how everything worked, when the only world we knew was the valley?
Humans have five senses, two of which necessitate physical contact for perception. Of the remaining three, hearing and smell have weakened so immensely over time as to provide us with only the faintest information about our environment. Vision, our strongest sense, only perceives electromagnetic radiation in the visible light spectrum, about 0.0035% of the total electromagnetic spectrum. We are severely restricted by our ability to only be in one place at a time.
What allows us to change this vantage point? What is it that allows us to climb this towering metaphorical mountain?
Our drive to explore has given us access to incredible technology which allows us to scale the metaphorical ridge.
The creation of spoken language allowed us to communicate our experiences with one another, where before we were limited to vague physical signals. The advent of writing allowed us to hear someone’s story without needing them to be physically present at all. The wide availability of the written word enabled by the invention of the printing press allowed the general public to be educated on an enormous scale. The Internet has revolutionized the amount of information each person is exposed to to a previously unfathomable degree.
The world we inhabit now is vastly different from the one in which we evolved. And it’s all because of the tools we have invented to expand our perception. It is no longer our senses, but our technology that determines the extent of our awareness. It’s incredible to think that our own ingenuity, curiosity, and creativity have driven us to push our limits and explore unheard-of possibilities.
Over millennia, the analytical curiosity which forms the basis for the scientific method has enabled the understanding of the world which has led to the creation of new technologies, the closest thing we have to magic. Between self-driving cars, food-delivery services, and phones that can provide us with images of people across the world at the tap of a finger, it’s easy to forget that the world we live in isn’t the one we’ve always had, nor the world that all humans currently inhabit. Our current understanding of the universe is the equivalent of the summit of the highest mountain ever known on Earth, when a thousand years ago we stood in the valley. And the best part is that there’s so much more to discover!!