Monday, November 29, 2010

By Starlight

A few days ago, I managed to catch up with an old friend who I had known since kindergarten. We were next door neighbors for years until my family moved to a different part of town just before 8th grade. We had drifted apart - it being in the years before cellphones and high-speed internet (I almost can't believe that!).

I had told him how, upon returning to town, I looked up at the clear night sky and for the first time in perhaps years, I saw the stars. I saw the constellation Orion, clearer than I had ever seen it before from home. In response, he told me how a while ago, while backpacking with friends up north, he looked up to the clear moonless night and saw only the stars. There was so much starlight that everything around had a soft glow. And not just your typical stars, but stars of different colors - reds, oranges, yellows, blues - that you'd normally never see. It was later under this same starlight that he proposed to his fiance. Words could not describe how beautiful the world looks under nothing but starlight.

And I thought to myself, when was the last time I had that sense of amazement? Or any sense of amazement, really. I remember looking up at the stars as a kid and reading about every constellation, every star, every nebula, that I could look up. I wondered, when was this sense of awe and amazement quenched? When does growing up suffocate the curiosity and wonder of childhood? Becoming an adult is a perilous thing to the capacity of kids to dream.

Recently, I had a brief moment of amazement (granted, a somewhat twisted version). You see, viruses amount to nothing more than RNA or DNA, some proteins, and perhaps less than a dozen genes. And yet, without consciousness, without cognitive intent, viruses naturally just infiltrate our bodies and subvert our own cells to serve their own ends. How curious that we all share the same building blocks of life, the same atoms, and yet we must be so antagonistic. And on a loosely related note, how all thought and sensations are but the products atoms interacting. There's nothing of substance to our thinking, and yet like magic we make real what's only illusion - we materialize it in words, sounds, writing, actions, etc. To think that an orgasm or love are just chemicals interacting with each other at the right time and place, now there's some awe in that.

You may not think so, you may not agree, you may not even care or are thinking "wtf." But when was the last time you took a moment to take in something and think deeply about it - to reduce it to it's simplest elements and marvel how something so complex and, indeed, miraculous came about?

Anyway, enough of my rambling.


Biki said...

For whatever reason, I'm always being amazed about life almost on a daily basis. And its always without fail the smallest things that totally blow me away.

You are so right, if you break down our lives to the smallest parts, it becomes ever more awe inspiring.

I'm glad you reconnected with a long ago friend. Often doing that can give us back a glimspe of who we used to be. And gives us the chance to recapture some of the essence of that person again.

naturgesetz said...

You're right, there is so much that is so amazing, if we'd pay attention. Science can tell us how some of it works, but that doesn't diminish the awesomeness, even though demystifying the process may seem to do so. And then there is the question of why it is so.

El Genio said...

I love these 'miraculous moments' and I think we can experience a lot more of them if we actually spend more time in nature. Granted, that means we have to actually find that time somewhere... Glee had a nice little moment last week tho :)

Jack said...

You inspired me to look up and see the world in a new light. Thank you.

tracy said...

Thank you, Aek, for a post that really made me think and will hopefully get my "wow" factor back.

It's really good to see you posting again.


. said...

I second the thought Aek, you are right...everything around you can be amazing if you just open your eyes to see it. Hope you're doing well. I enjoyed you writing about the the backwoods of's an amazing site on a clear cold night to see the stars. Sort of makes you feel how small your world and space is compared to the vastness of space. Have a great week ahead!!!!

Aek said...

naturgesetz: And why should science be any less awe-inspiring than the arts? Why should knowing how something works and demystifying take away that sense of wonder from something? I'd argue that it should only add to it, as it brings a new appreciation to things. As I see it, the arts and science are but two ways to perceive and understand reality and truth.

El Genio: Yes, time . . . is rather limited. >_>

Jack: You're welcome. :-) If you take a moment to slow down and just pay attention to something, or to the moment, it can be quite overwhelming.

tracy: You're welcome. :-)

.: Yeah, makes you feel small. But at the same time it can also make you feel a part of the whole, as if you have your own role to play in the cosmic story.

AJ said...

Ah so true Aek!
One of my new year resolutions was to get a glimpse of sunset EVERY SINGLE DAY!
be it from the window at the office or from the cafe or maybe from my house, while travelling... have been mostly successful.. also take a break once in two months to be amongst nature.. to wonder abt stars, the tiny plants, the ferns by the river.. the lil fishes , pebbles n so on.. Thanks for this blog..

Aek said...

AJ: You're welcome. :-)