We have all looked at those twinkling little stars in the night sky at some point in our lives. It would be hard to believe that there could be someone in the human race who could claim not to have done so at least once in his / her life for it is only natural for one to be amazed and intrigued by the incomparable beauty of a night sky lit by the dazzle of the stars and the serene calmness of the moon.
The beauty of the night sky fills the heart with an unknown warmth, as it grows younger, and the view is broadened in the eye, as the silence of the twinkle takes effect, causing the noise around to be muted, the sights around to be dimmed, and in this silence; one gazes and amazes oneself by the spectacle of nature that is pure in its harmony and unmatched in its beauty. It is at that point that one truly understands the true meaning of ‘love’ and ‘beauty.’
Vincent Van Gogh got intrigued by this beauty and painted his famous ‘starry night’ from the view that he beheld from his asylum room window during the summer of 1889 in Saint Remy, France, which is known today as a piece of classic impressionist art. Yet he wasn’t the only one. In fact man has gazed at stars in the night sky since times immemorial. When you come to think of it, you suddenly realise that it is in fact looking at the stars that gave man the broadness of vision, as he compares his questionable existence to the reality he faces within the ghastly vastness of the universe upon his head. Man realised, only after looking deeply at the stars above, that his existence is that of an unidentifiable dot in the factory of nature that knows no limitations in space and time and, as Einstein would have liked to put it, in space-time.
If we agree that western philosophy, or philosophical thought for that matter, started with Thales of Miletus, a pre-Socratic Greek philosophers of the 6th century BC, than we must admit that he was the first scientist as well because for all practical reasons the early philosophers were the early scientists too. Yes! Thales was an Astronomer too. Hence he was the first one perhaps to engage himself with scientific philosophy. When one takes a deeper look at other philosophers in other eras and from different geographies, one finds that they all were in one way or another intrigued by the heavens above. They saw things up there and posed questions and tried to find answers to them not only by looking at the stars but also by using logic and reason and that ultimately resulted in seeking knowledge of the natural sciences, which resultantly led into sciences we know today by different names including cosmology, astro-physics, theoretical physics and astronomy.
Therefore, in my opinion it was actually looking at the stars and pondering over the universe that broadened the horizons of man’s limitation of thought as if a star shining like a diamond in the sky has always been a clue left on purpose by God to help man in seeking true knowledge. Was it not our dear old ‘Polaris’ and other stars and the constellation of stars that guided man, acting as his compass, on land and in sea alike? It still continues to serve its purpose today- the ‘Polaris’- in guiding us about the dimensions and positioning of the whole cosmos. Trust me when I say this- its the same old story!
The cosmos is but the beginning of an end which in turn is not an end but yet another beginning. This means that, in a strictly cosmological and celestial sense, the death of a star gives life to new stars and the new stars after completing their age die to give birth to more stars and the process goes on. Does it have an end? Does it have a beginning? If it does, what was before that? what will be after that? Some of the ancient philosophers were in favour of the fact that the universe was there since infinity and shall be there till infinity. It wasn’t only the Pythagoreans but Nietzsche also was an ardent propagator of the recurrent return or eternal return. He propounded that life is but a series of recurring events that will keep on happening, without an ending, without a beginning, because the universe was there since infinity and shall be there till infinity. At this point what comes to mind? A para-verse or a multi-verse! A theory of the modern times. See I told you before- its the same old story!
My dad tells me that I used to be scared of the moon when I was very young and would cry my heart out whenever I would see it. I was of course too young to remember this but this was my first connection with the skies. While children of that age listen to lullabies where the stars twinkle and the moon shines to put them to sleep yet I was scared of it. Not such a good start to a romance I say. As I grew older I started to enjoy the night sky. I would go up to the roof of our house back in late 1980’s and look at the stars and be mesmerised by the spectacle of the tiny cool dots up above my head.
Then I grew up and the stars faded away as if they were angry at me. A twist in the romance- the agony of separation. Whenever I would look at the sky there would be a faint dot here and a bright dot there and that was that. I later realised that as we progressed and got urbanised, made metropolitans, we created pollution of dust and light which took the stars away from us. It was a couple of years ago when I had a few nights to myself at a hill station 6000 ft above when I was struck by my childhood memories as I could actually see the abundance of stars in the sky I grew up with. It was a sight to behold. I could see my friends again in the same positions, more or less, and it was just like the good old days of my childhood. I felt momentarily young again. Every night I would sit out there looking at them and soon the constellations that I had identified at a young age started smiling at me again. It was their greeting and that day I made a promise to them that I shall never part ways, come what may. This was perhaps a reunion in my romance.
Man has always been looking for answers to questions. Metaphysical questions like who am I? What is God? What is Existence? Do I exist? What is Reality? Then he answers the questions which give rise to even more questions and in this process man’s intellect progresses with respect to his environment in search of true knowledge and he moves on. This is the short story of evolution. So in search of finding answers to the questions above, he started looking at his surroundings, nature, and of course the stars above his head. It hasn’t changed in my opinion other than the fact that today we use science, as our tool, to aid in our efforts to think about the same questions, more or less, and try to find answers to such questions which in turn, like olden times, gives rise to more questions. While I had lost interest in the stars, I gained the love for philosophy. On the other hand, I always had physics at the core of my heart and had always remained connected to it one way or another and the affair took me towards theoretical physics- learning from both Quantum physics on one hand whereas astro-physics on the other to the extent that a layman could. No wonder the string theory has started making sense to me.
Nevertheless, I was always secretly amazed and, as a matter of fact, ashamed in a way at how I could love two entirely distant things like philosophy and physics. It reminded me of the ‘opposites’ of Parmenides like good and evil, darkness and light, as I found myself torn between two areas of study entirely distant if not totally opposed to each other. I had to stick to one. I could not make a connection before. There was no connection. And then suddenly it downed on me. Philosophy and physics were never apart. Philosophy gave rise to physics and physics in turn generates philosophy- in fact astronomy was the missing link. Astronomy was the bridge that enabled me in connecting my passions, and weaved both physics and philosophy together in the nutshell of the cosmos. Propounding further on the philosophy of Parmenides the philosophers of the later times stated that there is only oneness in nature- the concept of the idealist- the pure. In fact if one thinks about the dualism of Parmenides, one might contest that there are no opposites in the universe but one is the absence of the other. Quite interestingly, goodness is the absence of evil and darkness does not exist within itself but it is merely the absence of light.
Suddenly everything started to make sense to me. I started stargazing again and soon realised that everything seems to be in its proper place in my mind as if the untuned noise of my heart has suddenly gotten the form of an orchestra that beats in rhythm and harmony. As if I had realised the monism within the dualism, in realising that darkness was merely the absence of light and good just the absence of evil. I realised at that moment that I was suddenly gay. Hold on! Gay not as in the contemporary sense, gay as in the classical sense of being lighthearted and carefree; I was at peace with myself (the explanation of the term is owed to the dilemma of living in today’s world).
Finally, what I can say is that I have been led to stargazing by the secret force of nature that wanted to reveal to me that my passion for physics and philosophy needed stargazing to be combined in my search of knowledge where I have found myself in unison with the Oneness that we know as God. The stars guided me here, a man roaming astray, as they used to guide the lost wanderers in land and at sea. The little clues that are left by nature are a blissful gift of nature to mankind. I am no longer scared of the moon and I don’t cry at the sight of it. I love the moon now and whenever I behold it, an unknown faint smile caresses my lips in silence, in calmness and I am taken in to a state of a perpetual tranquility.
This indeed is the unison of my romance. I have decided to continue with my stargazing, as if I too am a lonely wanderer like the Halley’s comet, and pen down my philosophical thought that the photons of the stars teach me.