Saturday, December 19, 2009

Some 'What if' questions of what we are a part of

I've been putting this post off for a few days because I haven't been sure how to word it or organize it.  Sometimes it can be hard to put some of my thoughts into words.  It makes sense in my mind, but sometimes it's difficult to find the right words to convey my thoughts.  It's not necessarily that the words don't exist, it's just that it might be necessary for others to understand  a certain point of view or have knowledge of certain things related to the subject first.  A point of view and a person's specific knowledge can be gained over time and from different experiences, so sometimes it can be difficult to just sum everything up and still properly convey the message to someone else.  Sure, you could try to write about every aspect of your thoughts and what you base it on, but that could get very time consuming and wordy.

So the contents of this post mainly consist of some of my mind's ramblings over the past few days.  I don't really have a singular point I'm trying to make.  A lot of these thoughts are just questions, and shouldn't necessarily be considered  'beliefs' or even theories.  This post is of a rambling nature, but hopefully the questions will at least make sense.

Why is it that we are so concerned with seeking "life as we know it" somewhere "out there?"  Because we want to know that we, the billions of us living now plus all of our ancestors before us, are not 'alone' in the vast universe?  So far, not much has been found.  Sure, it's been claimed microbes have been found and even water on the moon and mars, but so far, we haven't found plants or animals or people like us anywhere else.

But why should we be so focused on finding "life as we know it?"  How should we define life anyways?  Plants are not sentient, yet they are life.  Most people don't think of the sun as a lifeform, but if you consider that a plant is a lifeform, why not the sun?  Stars are born.  They live for a while (a very long while).  They 'grow' into red giants and red dwarfs and white dwarfs and towards the end of the life, they go supernova and 'die'.  I guess a black hole could be considered the death of a star too, but technically, it still exists, albeit in a form so dense it is not even measurable.  In a way, maybe they don't really 'die' at all.  But they do appear to have some sort of life cycle.  So is the sun not alive?  Consider this; would you be alive if the sun wasn't there supplying light and life giving energy to the earth?

As Heisenberg said, "We have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning."  But so often do we try to view everything through a particular lens. If you viewed the Mona Lisa through a microscope without ever stepping back to see the bigger picture, would you ever really know what it is? Sure, you could analyze the paint particles you see. You could do an in-depth analysis of what colors they are and maybe even conclude what chemicals were combined to make that color. But is that what the Mona Lisa really is? Is it just paint particles and a chemical analysis? Or is it a picture of a woman? If all you did was look at the painting through the lens of a microscope, you'd never see that is actually a picture of a woman.

So is this how we view our reality? Through the lens of a microscope or a telescope? What if we are a part of a much larger whole? We can see what matter is made up of through a microscope. The atoms we see consist of an atomic nucleus with electrons clouds orbiting it. Is it that much different from the moon orbiting the earth or the planets orbiting the sun or the stars spiraling in a galaxy (granted, an electron's orbit may not be elliptical like we are used to seeing with planets, but it is nonetheless orbiting around something). So what is this common theme of orbiting objects? Why is it when you look through a microscope you can see orbiting objects, and yet when you look through a telescope you also see orbiting objects?  If the atoms we see through a microscope make up matter, then what do the stars and planets we see through a telescope make up?

And what of consciousness? Biologist Rupert Sheldrake considered the possibility that the sun may be conscious. Now of course if you go along with scientific establishment's current thinking that consciousness is entirely a manifestation of the brain, then that would sound absurd.  The sun has no brain, so how could it be conscious?  But if you consider that consciousness is not just a manifestation of the brain, then I suppose you could ask the question of "why not?"  If the brain is merely an instrument for consciousness to control the physical body, then that means consciousness can still exist without a physical brain.  So if consciousness can exist without a brain, then why couldn't the sun be conscious?  If it were conscious, would we even be able to grasp a consciousness so vast?

What of our cellular structure?  Our bodies are made up of many individual cells.  Each cell has a purpose it serves.  Some cells are part of the makeup of our skin, some cells are part of the makeup of our organs.  Some cells are dead, making up our hair and nails.  But do these cells understand what they are?  Do they understand what they are a part of?  Do they understand they are a part of a conscious being?  Do they know what consciousness is?  Sure, a cell serves it's purpose, it forms part of the makeup of life as we know it, but does it really understand what it is?

What if we too are just part of the makeup of something bigger?  What if the cells of our body are to us what we are to the earth?  What if the earth itself is a lifeform?  If something much larger than us observed the earth through a microscope, could it not consider that the earth is alive?  The earth is teeming with life of different types.  The lifeforms on earth completely rely on the life giving resources of the earth and its star.  If the earth itself was 'dead', then how would life exist on it?  If the sun was 'dead', then how would one of its planets have life on it?  And shoot, if were going to toss out the question as to whether or not the sun might be conscious, why not the earth too?  Maybe it would help explain some of the mysteries of the world that we still don't understand.  When a person is dreaming or under hypnosis, the dream world or memories seem real, as if they were really happening.  Perhaps an earth mind could have a similar effect on the reality that we live in.

But then again, perhaps it is a ridiculous thought to consider that the earth or sun could be conscious.  I can point out that life on earth may just form part of a bigger whole in much the same way that our cellular structure forms part of a much bigger whole that make us what we are, but I suppose a key difference between the two is that I am able to actually question what it is that we are a part of.  I can question what I am a part of, but does a cell really question what it is a part of?  So is it even a good analogy at all?

Nevertheless, I still wonder what all it is we are a part of.  And I'm glad that I can wonder that.  I'm glad to be able to say that I AM.


  1. Oh Jeff, I can always count on you to be a kindred spirit. I wrote a post a while back about something similar--whether the earth is just a cell in a larger organism and we see the other cells (planets) but like the cells in a body, we don't realize we're part of a human being when put together... I absolutely believe that of the universe. Hopefully, upon death, we get the perspective to see this larger thing and we probably feel shamed for thinking that staring at other planets were were seeing the universe, but only its components. I don't think consciousness is exclusive of brains. Plants can certainly react and secrete hormones (like in the movie "The Happening"). In respect to studying the universe and life on other planets, I really don't care. That probably sounds callus, but honestly we haven't figured out this planet and its tons of secrets and all the physics involved at all and if we throw in a distant planet we can't go to and worry about its life forms, we're way off mark. I don't like that we think of spending money to go to Mars and land on the moon again. It's an enormous waste. I know people say from that we can make other scientific discoveries that apply to our world, like how to freeze dry foods better for long travel or the invention of Velcro, or whatever, but I don't think we should be looking with-out, but with-in instead. We need to get humans able to live on the same planet first--from Africa to the Middle East to Mexico. We have to stop population growth. We have to find the secrets of our own ocean (NASA should really be going deep diving instead of orbiting). That's just my take on it. I just love your discussions. Keep them coming--you have an avid pupil!

  2. I agree, we need to focus on learning more about ourselves than we do learning about the other planets out there. So much of what we think we know about outer space is based on interpretation of data and theories, and yet there are still many mysteries. We really don't have a lot of facts, just a bunch of theories and theories that support other theories. Don't get me wrong, I think it's awesome that we are trying to learn more about the universe, but should we be doing so at the expense of learning more about ourselves and trying to make the world a better a place?

    And you're absolutely right about the oceans...there is so much we don't know about our own oceans! I just finished reading an article about NASA wanting to send a 'boat' to Saturn's moon Titan so they can research its methane oceans. I think it's an exciting thought to learn about the ocean of another planet's moon, but should we really be going to all that trouble when we could be learning more about our own ocean?

  3. One point you make that is very interesting is to be conscious without having a physical brain. There are medical cases where a person if bored without a brain but it still "conscious". I like your view on how the earth may be conscious itself, I think that this is definitely possible. However we cannot look at it as being "conscious" in terms of human consciousness. Life is not defined by humans, humans are defined by life. I think that it is funny that some humans think we have any slight understanding of life. Makes me shake my head. I have to been searching for "the meaning" and I am always reminded of Socrates quote "The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing". I always find that quote very humbling, that such a great man still understood that we just don't know! Ah life and it's mysteries, how lucky are those that ponder.