Part IV: The End, or the Beginning?
10. Space: Exploration or Exploitation?
As human beings, we seem to have an insatiable curiosity about our surroundings. This is a symptom of our need to know our place in the universe; to find our meaning and sense of belonging in a vast cosmos. From the beginning, humans have gazed into the night sky, longing for answers. As science has developed new methods, we have looked more deeply into the reaches of space. And at last, humankind has found a way to actually touch the stars. Today, we almost take for granted the repeated expeditions of the NASA shuttles, which have been successful for many years. Large projects, such as the "mission to Mars," receive widespread press coverage in the world. What "rules" or guidelines govern our activities in space? Should we be held accountable for our actions? Or is space an "anything goes" frontier, where we can claim dominion?
The 1967 treaty on principles governing the activities of states in the exploration and use of outer space states:
This treaty is impersonal and broad, intending to cover all bases, primarily because it is assumed that exploration and questionable instances of exploitation will occur throughout the duration of our forays into outer space. But a closer examination of the language used in writing this treaty may also raise some important questions about assumptions and definitions.
First of all, by stating that space is the "province of mankind," we may already have gotten ourselves into some trouble. Are the nations of this world, as represented by the treaty, qualified to assume such an authoritative role in the universe? Are we just assuming the right to exploit until some other alien race tries to prevent us? What about scientists or corporations who are driven by the desire for personal or monetary gain? Will the treaty protect the mutual interest of all parties and nations, regardless of economic power? Would the results of such enterprises yield "benefits for all mankind"?
Another issue of contention for some is the direct use of masculine images of power in the treaty. That the treaty specifies space as the province of "mankind" and not "humankind" is most likely a sign of the times, since the treaty has apparently not been revised since its inception in 1967. However, that mankind is given the right to exploit and "develop" celestial bodies as it pleases is inherently a masculine, power based allowance. The phrase "celestial body," while not directly referring to anything feminine, may conjure up some female imagery for some, and from there the power references are easy to trace. If such a treaty were written differently, perhaps it should not emphasize the power of mankind so heavily. The focus might be on cooperation among nations (instead of competition) and on respect for celestial bodies through correct methods of exploration, rather than on exploitation and "gain."
As an alternative example, consider the Aboriginal culture, which considers the earth to be sacred. Nothing in or on the earth exists to be exploited; it has value and worth in its very being. It is also believed that everything which comprises the earth is One, and this belief extends out into the universe itself. Humans are not meant to disrupt the order and majesty of the universe. Other indigenous cultures have similar beliefs, as do some Eastern philosophical traditions which embrace the Oneness of the universe. How might these cultures view the 1967 treaty for space exploration? Could it be rewritten to reflect these philosophies and beliefs? How important is it that modern Western society begin to respect such traditions? While Western society seems determined to exploit for its own gain, and while we worry that modern technology may have spilled over its banks, might these beliefs actually help preserve the beauty and order of the universe? (Incidentally, indigenous traditions such as these teach respect for the feminine; many portrayals of "power" are in feminine form, as in the "Great Mother" earth of Native American tradition.)
And then there are political questions raised by the space treaty. Should private companies be given the right to explore space, or should governments representing whole populations have exclusive access? Governmental control may lead to conflict within the hierarchy, and countries which are not democratic may experience other tensions. The control of private companies is said to act in a less controversial and less costly manner (with provisions from private funding). But in reality, private companies would more likely execute the same tactics that any government would. It comes down to a question of power, no matter how you look at it.
What about safety issues associated with space exploration? Unknown bacteria and particles from space could spread, infect, and even mutate. Exploration to Mars has recently been postponed until a suitable facility is constructed to prevent possible contamination by samples brought back from the planet. We must also consider the inappropriate use and unintended destruction of facilities and projects of space exploration. Wasted cost and harmful effects of proposed projects are hard to distinguish. Would decision making based on a consensus of qualified experts resolve any of these issues satisfactorily? Who is a "qualified expert" on these matters? Will space exploration continue without regulation until the practical laws of economics force a halt, or until such destruction and waste has been wreaked upon celestial bodies within our reach that there is no chance to turn back?
11. The Self-Aware Universe
We have taken a closer look at the question of consciousness from a human standpoint, but what about the nature of the universe itself? Could it possibly be aware of itself in some way? Is there a cosmic consciousness?
The Gaia Hypothesis
The earth was viewed as a single, whole entity when the first human looked on it from space. Thinking of Earth as an organism is nothing new for those who are familiar with the Gaia hypothesis. This is an idea which states clearly that the earth, with all of its organisms and systems, is one single living entity. The theory defines the earth in much the same way as we see our own bodies, which are made up of many different living cells which have their own specialized function and identity, but are organized into a single being. With this holistic idea in mind, we can picture the trees as the earth's respiratory system, with the rain forests as its lungs. We can see the water as the blood and veins of the earth, with the oceans circulating elements, heat, and life forms. Like humans, the earth has maintained a temperature balance (which humans have begun to interfere with, much like a viral disease). While we sweat and shiver to regulate heat, the earth's atmosphere "respires" gases and radiation to cool the planet surface. Looking more deeply into this analogy, we can think of humans as the consciousness of earth, aware of all that exists.
Since the Big Bang, matter has collected and organized itself into more and more complex forms, through the process of evolution. Today, we as human beings find ourselves in possession of a fantastically complex brain and nervous system, and an ability to imagine and create without limit. Humans have made an extraordinary evolutionary "breakthrough," and can look back upon the universe, almost to its beginning. In this way, we can picture humans as the earth reflecting back upon itself. This entity, which is aware of itself and of the universe, is called Gaia. In Greek myth, this name was for the earth personified as a goddess, mother of the Titans, and often identified with the Roman goddess Tellus.
In a book called The Self Aware Universe, by Amit Goswami, questions of consciousness are addressed by an author who was born and raised in India. Goswami was immersed in the Eastern philosophical tradition founded on the premise that "Consciousness" is fundamental, and that the phenomenal world arises from it (this view is referred to as monistic idealism, see Chapter 7). "Consciousness" is capitalized here to distinguish it from that aspect of it, which we commonly associate with our "ego-centered" experience as human beings. In this philosophical view, it may be possible to imagine a "universal consciousness."
Monistic idealism is contrasted with the viewpoint known as "material realism", which assumes that reality is built out of some substantive building block of matter. Consciousness arises from the complexity of matter, and is irrelevant to the overall structure of the universe.
Three principles of material realism:
Material realism is a philosophy which implies that human experience, with all of our notions of free will, emotion, and meaning, is an irrelevant footnote to the workings of the universe. Because the pursuit of science is such a dominant cultural force, we may wonder how the paradigm of classical mechanistic science, or material realism, has shaped our lives and our environment. The scientist and philosopher Descartes was one who separated the universe into the realms of mind and matter, and emphasized the division between the two. David Abram, in his book The Spell of the Sensuous, notes that "the mechanical philosophy became a central facet of the scientific worldview precisely because it implied the existence of a maker (a divine interpreter) and thus made possible an alliance between science and the Church (the dominant social and political institution of the time)." For centuries this "dualism" was inherent in the teachings and research of scientists throughout the Western world.
And yet science is also an evolutionary process, changing along with our own development as a species. Classical mechanistic ideas eventually were replaced with the new ideas of quantum mechanics and relativity. Goedel's Theorem placed more uncertainties in the path of physicists and mathematicians (see John Barrow, Impossibility, Chapter 8). The image of reality described by modern physics is vastly different from that which was accepted in Descartes' day. Classical physics dealt with macroscopic phenomena, which we could contact with our senses and which were compatible with our "common-sense" notions of everyday experience. Modern physics deals with a reality, which transcends that world of "everyday" reality. And in our desperation to understand and be in control of our own reality, it seems that we often cling to conceptual frameworks that are no longer viable. Can we ever be truly comfortable with the idea that we cannot know everything? Or do we resemble the monkey of an Indian fable, which upon thrusting its hand into a jar to grab a handful of chickpeas, found that it could not remove its clenched fist from the jar. Because it refused to let go of the chickpeas, it was forced to remain captive to the jar. Are we captives of our own limited knowledge?
12. Problems Between Science and Religion
In the discussions we have looked at thus far, many parallels and possible connections between religion and science have been explored. And yet our society in general seems to harbor a grudge match between the two, with hostile feelings often running high on both sides. What is the basic nature of the conflict? Can it ever be resolved, given what we have realized about their similarities?
The Trouble with "Organized" Religion
Religion and science have not always been in conflict. In the Middle Ages, they were united in their approach and viewpoint. Scientists (and the rest of society) attributed unknown or obscure phenomena to God, resting in their belief that God had caused the events of the universe to unfold. They were utilizing a "god-of-the-gaps" answer; a "deus-ex-machina" which was able to simultaneously fit within the Church's teachings. It was only when scientists uncovered truths about the universe which were not easily explained by the Church that problems began to surface. Galileo was persecuted by the Church for proposing theories which did not support the idea that God had placed humans in the center of His universe. Other scientists faced similar opposition. The Church was unable to halt the progress of science, however; the two began a rivalry, which extends to our own time.
Social and political control rested with the Church in the Middle Ages and subsequent centuries, until the separation of church and state by democratic nations. Science in the Age of Discovery was challenging the foundations of the Church's teachings by providing answers to the mysterious questions of the universe. The power that the Church once held over the people was threatened. And in the end, this was an economic battle, since large amounts of money passed through the Church and into the hands of those in power. Science was causing a social revolt of sorts, as people began to question whether the Church really knew all of the answers, as it had professed. Science could even PROVE its results; could so much be said for the Church? Perhaps in this time of change, seeing really was believing.
The Church insisted that its truths, the truths of the Bible, were absolute. This dogmatic approach was inviolate; the "organization" of religion into denominations and rituals helped to protect the soft underbelly of the Church, which was open to criticism from empirical, scientific evidence to the contrary. People were required to base their belief in the Church on faith alone, trusting that God's will would be done. In the times of greatly publicized scientific advancement such as those that occurred in Einstein's day, more people began to feel uneasy with the Church's requirements. The Church could not provide the same answers as science, and it certainly could not "prove" that the way of faith was correct. Scientists were often portrayed as heretics, and yet the volume of significant scientific data continued to add up. The Church refused to accept these discoveries. Even today, some fundamental factions of the Church retain this one-sided approach, and it is here that many people have found the real conflict with science.
Before this discussion continues, it is very important to take a moment here to realize exactly what we are talking about. The "Church" represents primarily the Roman Catholic Church, which was the dominant power in the Middle Ages, and which continues to have a great influence on much of Western society, both in Europe and the Americas. The splitting of the Church into denominations was accomplished after the Protestant revolution, which began in Germany with Martin Luther. Today we are familiar with such names as Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, and Lutheran denominations. Each one has its own rituals and its own degree of "dogma." Of course the Church does not exhibit the same political control that it once had, but it still represents a major force, both political and economic, in some countries. Protestant denominations in America are influential, as are the Catholic communities, in the politics of democracy and in moral leadership.
But this discussion is not meant to examine all of the denominations in detail, nor is it intended to represent anyone's opinion other than the students of this seminar. We are all engaged in the process of learning about these issues. And one of the most important things to keep in mind is the context of our discussion, which is Western and primarily ethno-centric. We cannot help but be a part of our own culture, and our views of the Church and the issues raised in the seminar are primarily Western. There are other views which may not be as widely represented in our summaries, but which are certainly no less important to consider. In fact, it is hoped that the exploration of different points of view may provide new avenues of discussion for future seminars, and for those who read and question further.
Consider the indigenous cultures of the world, Native American beliefs and practices, Buddhist ways of thought, Jewish perspectives, and those of other nations such as India, Egypt, and Iran. The countries of South America have stories to tell, as do the nations of the former Soviet block. All of these cultures have scientists who have contributed to the growth of scientific knowledge in the world. How do their religious beliefs differ when compared with Western traditions? How are they the same? Do the same struggles for power exist? How are they reconciled (or not) with their own systems of political control? Remembering our place within the whole community of human life on earth can bring a whole new dimension to discussions such as these.
The debate between religion and science cannot be resolved easily. We are shaped by our traditions and values within communities, and by our own experiences as individuals. What remains is a fascinating opportunity to examine priorities and beliefs: how can we explain the universe in terms of both scientific and religious significance? As we have seen in previous chapters, there are many reasons to believe that religion and science are actually not incompatible. The mysteries of the universe are discovered in different ways, but it seems that the fundamental force behind the two is a need to find our own place in the universe. Science provides a foothold for some, and religious beliefs and practices give a sense of meaning to others. Neither one is wrong; they are both looking for the same thing! In religion, when a symbol is mistaken for reality, problems arise. In science, the problems come from mistaking a model for reality. The trick is to understand that the symbols and the models are both representations, not reality. The true experience of reality is individual, arising through the process of living itself!
In the final chapter, we will take a look at mysticism, which is inspirational for some as a way to bridge the gap between religious thought and scientific discovery. We cannot explain religion with science, nor science with religion. Rather the same mystery is at the heart of religion, science, and philosophy. They don't confirm each other, but they explore the same mysteries. In science we try to explain mystery. In mysticism, we experience mystery.
13. The Intersection Between Science and Mysticism
A definition of mysticism: the direct experience of ultimate reality, which is One.
It has been said that to be "religious" means to have an intuitive feeling of the unity of the cosmos. "Oneness" is grounded in scientific reality; we are made up of the same stuff as all creation. We are stardust. Mystics and poets have perceived this Oneness, as did the philosopher Heraclitus, who wrote: "When you have listened not to me but to the logos, it is wise to agree that all things are one."
It is said that science demystifies nature, but scientists on this frontier are awed by its elegance and harmony. As science reveals the secrets of the universe and deciphers the cosmic code, it evokes wonder. Many scientists have sensed a spiritual dimension in the search for the laws of physics. For Einstein, discerning the laws of nature was a way to discover how God thinks. The beauty and symmetry of nature can cause spiritual revelation; the reasons may escape us, but we can be amazed and humbled by its very existence.
The universe emerged out of an infinitely small point in space--a singularity. The image of a primordial instant harmonizes with traditional religious beliefs regarding a definite beginning of the universe. And yet the Big Bang is a theory, not a fact. The scientific consensus is that the theory is correct within its specific domain: the evolution of the universe from 10^-35 of a second after its origin up to the present. In fact, this fraction of a second can be reduced even farther, and will never equal 0 (Zeno's paradox; see Barrow, p.19). But the laws of physics do not apply to that split second in which energy emerged. Whatever happened before that first fraction of a second lies beyond the power of science to explain. Therefore, the ultimate origin of the universe is still unfathomable. According to the 13th century mystic, Moses de Leon, "The beginning of existence is the secret concealed point. This is the beginning of all the hidden things, which spread out from there and emanate, according to their species." As emanation proceeds, as God begins to unfold, the point expands into a circle. Likewise, our universe has been expanding in all directions ever since the Big Bang.
Physicists search for the symmetry hidden in nature. They want to find equations that link its forces. Spiritual searches, too, chart a course through multiplicity toward oneness. If the Big Bang is our new creation myth, our new story that explains how the universe began, then who is God?
"God" is a name we give to the Oneness of it all. Medieval philosophers--Jewish, Christian, and Muslim--taught that God created the world "out of nothing." The mystics interpreted this to mean that the universe emanated out of divine Nothingness. To call God "Nothingness" does not mean that God does not exist. Rather, it conveys the idea that God is No Thing: God animates all things and cannot be contained by them. This mystical nothingness is not empty and barren; it is fertile and overflowing, engendering all of the myriad forms of life. This sentiment is echoed in the idea of Nirvana, in Buddhism. Similarly, physicists speak of the quantum vacuum as teeming with potential. This vacuum is anything but empty--a seething froth of virtual particles, constantly appearing and disappearing. How did the universe emerge out of prolific nothingness? According to Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) and Big Bang theory, this transition was marked by a single point. Recall the singularity: an infinitely dense point in space-time. The Jewish word ayin means "nothingness," which is similar to the singularity in being both creative and destructive. Anything falling into a singularity merges with it and loses its identity, while energy emerging from a singularity can become anything. When light flashed forth from the singularity, time and space began. But the early universe was an undifferentiated blend of energy and matter. How did matter emerge? The physicist would say that energy congealed. The mystic writes that the light was concealed.
The physicist is fascinated by the intimate relation of matter and energy. The mystic is interested too, but describes it differently. To the mystic, material existence emerges out of ayin, the pool of energy. Ultimately, the world is not other than God, for this energy is concealed within all forms of being. Science has given us a fairly clear picture of how the universe and life evolved. We have identified patterns of energy around us and within us, and we have cracked the genetic code. We have discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation--the echo of the Big Bang. We know enough to know how little we know about the universe, and about ourselves!
Every quark in us was present at the beginning, not figuratively but literally, since we all come from the Big Bang as part of the cosmos. Our most basic physical component is indeed stardust. As human beings, we are AWARE of this fact--that we are one with the universe and at the same time a separate, conscious person. How amazing is this awareness! There are times when this connection with all that exists reveals itself more clearly. Love is what we feel when we become aware of our oneness with what we thought was separate: a person, an animal, an idea. In the mystic language, this oneness and love is God.
Contemporary physics speaks of "broken symmetry," through which the initial unified state of being splinters into the diversity of galaxies, stars, planets, and life. According to Kabbalah, the world exists and we have individual consciousness only because the infinite God has withdrawn Itself from a single point of its infinity, thereby making room for finite being. We exist to the extent that we lost oneness through a process called "the breaking of the vessels."
The Kabbalist, Isaac Luria, concluded that the first act of creation was not emanation, but withdrawal by which God made room for something other than God. God withdraws, concealing Itself. This leaves a gap of space-time, an arena for the universe. As God recedes, creation unfolds. Since oneness cannot be contained by any vessel, the vessels break, spilling out diversity. This parallels the modern theory of broken symmetry in a fascinating way. The universe began in an extremely hot state of singularity and symmetry. As it expands and cools, its perfect symmetry is broken, giving rise to the world of variety and structure we inhabit. Science teaches us that we exist in our present state, with all of our imperfections, because of broken symmetry, just as Jewish mysticism teaches that our reality came from the breaking of the vessels.
Only because nature's symmetry is broken do the various elementary particles--quarks, gluons, leptons, bosons--appear to have different properties. If the temperature of the universe could be raised to the original 10^23 degrees Kelvin, would the disguised symmetry reemerge? Keeping this perspective of oneness in mind, we may be better able to see the universe holistically.
At a holy place in Nepal, there is a statue of a Buddha reclining on a bed of serpents--he is called Buddha Nilkanta, and it is said that he is "dreaming the universe." This is another, very beautiful and intriguing, mystical way of picturing the universe. How is this similar to the teaching of the Kabbalah: that God withdrew Itself into Itself to create space-time? Consider also the similarity of the practice of meditation, through which we withdraw our senses to connect with our inner essence. This connection with the Oneness is mystical and moving; it is here that some people find the spiritual center in themselves.
Scientists often think of mystics as wanting to replace science with their mystical ideas and "look down" on the pursuit of rigorous science. On the other hand, as we have seen, for many centuries scientists tried to understand God through their logical discoveries. More recently, as a reaction to the theory of the Big Bang, some religious community members exclaimed, "Science confirms the Bible!" That was a mistake, just as the "dumbing down" theory about mystics is unfounded. Again, it is important to remember that science cannot explain religion, and religion cannot explain science. The mystery which lies at the heart of each is the same wondrous mystery, whether approached through prayer or through telescope.
We will never be able to define ultimate reality with science. We will continually find layers of unknown. Religious traditions echo the same sentiment: they teach us that ultimate reality is transcendent and undefinable. Mysticism provides a way to experience this transcendent reality through awe and wonder. We find that we can encounter the Oneness of the universe, and still remain separate in our own consciousness. There are many ways, including meditation, that we can establish this "encounter."
In Christianity, which has inspired many mystics such as Meister Eckhart to write about their experiences, Jesus is described as both God and man. How can this contradiction exist? This is an example of an attempt to "shipwreck" our ordinary patterns of thought about the Oneness of the universe, by showing us that such impossibilities can exist in the vast, indescribable connectedness of reality. Zen Koans, such as "What is the sound of one hand clapping?", are also designed for students to meditate upon. Through deep contemplation of such contradictions, we come to an experience of ultimate reality. It teaches us to "think outside the box."
The philosopher Wittgenstein reflected on the mystery of H2O. How do you get water? The liquid reality of water is much more mysterious than H2O! We can see the molecules and atoms that make up water, and we can observe its different phases: ice, liquid, and vapor. But we can never directly experience it as water--it remains a mystery.
Light also exists in different forms. Light at light speed is space. As it slows down, it becomes condensed into "frozen light," or matter. Therefore, all matter is a condensation of light into patterns moving back and forth at average speeds, which are less than the speed of light. (see David Bohm's discussion in Dialogues with Scientists and Sages, by Rene Weber.) What an amazing thought! What are we actually experiencing when we see light? How much of this wonder do we take for granted every day?
In science we do feel a great deal of awe. At the beginning of the last century, scientists thought they had come to the end of all discoveries, with classical physics and magnetism...they thought they had it "all bundled up!" But then relativity and quantum mechanics emerged, and introduced even more mystery. How can light be both a particle and a wave at the same time? Isn't this uncannily similar to the idea that Jesus is both God and man? Whether you choose to think about these things through scientific introspection or mystic experience, you will ultimately come to the same non-conclusions!
Many people (even some students in this seminar) have stories to tell about "out-of-body" mystical experiences, in which consciousness encounters ultimate reality. These instances lend themselves to a clear argument for explanations that lead beyond science as we know it. Are these experiences just something we cannot explain yet, or is there something here that is unexplainable in principle? Of course, a personal experience such as these cannot be taken as a scientific experiment, which would stand up to scrutiny in a repeatable, controlled fashion. That is the case with all "mystic experiences." They are experienced by individuals, and controlled sharing is impossible. However, is the experience any less real?
Another argument for the existence of something beyond science comes from philosophy. In his book, How is Quantum Field Theory Possible?, author Sunny Auyang says, "The subject is no more than the abstract bounds of experience and knowledge," where knowledge of the object (science) is connected with the experience of the individual (mystics). In fact, quantum mechanics connects the experiment with the observer as an individual having an effect on the phenomena itself. Consider a vortex in a liquid as representing the individual. A scientist would look at the world outside and see the liquid as standing still, while the boundary is swirling around with the vortex. A mystic would focus on the interior, towards the center, and would see the stillness there. The mystic would perceive the boundary as an illusion, while seeking unity. And yet the stillness inside and outside the vortex are similar. There is even a mathematical transformation which would image the outside world into the inside and vice versa: w = 1/z, where w and z represent variables in the complex plane and the boundary of the vortex would be at [z] = [w] = 1. Science and mysticism can thus be seen as two complementary paths of knowing.
All experience is subjective, and although the processes on the path to visual recognition are accessible, the very process of conscious perception itself is beyond our ability to explain. Some meditative practices rely on a complete loosening from conscious perception in order to be able to experience without object! Mysticism strives toward the experience of unity. Unity is not just another object out there, it is the one experience to be in. Therefore, the subject-object relationship that is so essential for science becomes non-existent. In analogy, we can see ourselves lifted out of the lower dimension of being in the material world; in a higher dimension (3-D), all boundaries drawn in the lower dimensionality (2-D) become meaningless. There is a natural connection through the higher dimension (through the third dimension). Let us look from this angle at particle creation in vacuum in the material world: A sphere pushed through flatland (the 2-D world) suddenly appears to us (in the 3-D world) as a point, then expands into a growing circle, contracts, and then finally disappears (particle annihilation).
This analogy of mysticism as a way to look at the world from higher dimensions has been seen by some as a "copout;" a way of retreating from a problem that we do not yet understand how to solve. This is the standpoint taken by a number of prominent physicists, most notably Steven Hawking. We have to admit that science will make constant progress. However, that progress may be limited to solving what was called the "easy problems" by David Chalmers (Scientific American, December 1995). The "hard problem," namely what consciousness is and what it is like having the experience, is left out. Consider a blind and deaf physicist, who can have all the knowledge in the world about light and acoustic waves, but lacks the experience of the beauty of a color or a sound.
Perhaps without some balance between science and religion in our own lives, we would all resemble the blind and deaf physicist. Some vital part of the experience of life would be missing, no matter which way you look at it. And so we see that a balance must be struck, and there is really no need to take sides. As the philosopher Yehuda Elkana said, "There is nothing whatsoever in science or religion that puts the perception of our senses (science) or revelation (religion) into a general advantage over one another." The Dalai Lama, who is personally interested in physics, has often encouraged the rigorous pursuit of science among his people, as a way to better understand the mysteries of the universe. And that does not threaten the sanctity and knowledge gained through the principles of Right Living which are the foundations of Buddhism. Rather, they are seen as harmonious and complementary.
Throughout these discussions, we have seen that many of our questions cannot be answered. Indeed, from both a scientific and a religious point of view, we must accept that there are truths, which will never be explained. But there is something liberating about understanding our own limitations. Above all, we should strive for the continual experience of wonder, which causes us to remember our own humanity as a part of the beautiful community and connectedness of the universe.
Do you come crashing down, you millions? Stürzt ihr nieder, Millionen?
Do you sense the Creator's presence, world? Ahnest du den Schöpfer, Welt?
Seek Him above the starry firmament, Such ihn überm Sternenzelt,
For above the stars he surely dwells. Über den Sternen muß er wohnen.
(--last verse from Beethoven's "Ode to Joy")