The Big Picture has always been where my focus lies. I have a tendency to gloss the details. Of course, to obtain any sort of success in school, in my professional work, I had to curb the tendency to overlook the details. Teachers, bosses, clients…they are all about the details. The big picture was secondary. The big picture was the concluding paragraph of the essay, I learned, never the meat of the essay. The essay’s substance must have details. Nonetheless, I continue to be drawn towards grand ideas, flights of fancy. I continue looking for big picture connections without examining the details too closely.
The latest whim to occupy my mind centers on black holes. I can’t let the concept of these phenomena go. It’s what I’m dwelling on as I drift off to sleep. What I’m envisioning as I rest my forehead on the window pane of the train taking me into work. I’m not seeing the neighborhood or the bay. I’m lost in space.
I have a crude, layperson’s understanding of black holes, the immeasurably dense matter found at the center of nearly every detectable galaxy. Dormant, they are simply there, undetectable but for the movement of orbiting stars within its galaxy. Active black holes, or feeding as the cosmologists say, they are quasars. In a frenzy of gravitational pull, they begin sucking stars into their massive void. Once the void is entered, nothing can escape. The mass of stars being pulled in appears brighter on the cusp of the black hole. We see them here on earth as quasars.
On the basis of nothing more than language, on what the words describing these entities and the phenomena mean to me, I’ve been drawing parallels between the life of a galaxy and the life of a human. Innumerable galaxies exist, have existed, will exist. Innumerable humans exist, have existed, will exist. In some ways, we are each our own galaxy. We move through the world, encountering other beings, objects. We are probably orbiting around others and they around us, depending on our perspectives. But within our consciousness, our perception, there are forces (people, collectively and individually) we react to and who react to our existence.
Setting the physical body aside, this action and reaction is happening in our heads, in our minds. Our brains are constructing our consciousness of our world, our interpretation of our experience happens there. I’ve been wondering if there is within most of us a sort of black hole, some sort of force toward which we are being pulled. Or which has a pull on us.
Void. That was the word that triggered this connection. Everyone, it seems, becomes aware of a void within themselves at some point in their life. Our lives then become a mission to fill this void. We see the outward manifestation of that in some people – those who work to fill it with food, or serial relationships or addiction to substances. Or maybe with books or learning or friends or consumer goods. Even obsessive following of a sports team, to the point where one’s identity is tied to the team’s success or failure, could be seen as an attempt to fill that internal void.
Yet no matter how wealthy or poor, no matter our station in life, it seems that the void is never filled. Like the black holes that can’t be directly seen, we can’t really pin down that void within ourselves. Can’t define its borders and certainly we have no concept of its depth. Is it an infinite void?
For people whose behavior is visibly self-destructive, it’s like those people are quasars. The black hole within is feeding. We only know it’s there from the effect. The destruction of everything that gets too close. Broken relationships, violence perhaps, consumerism/greed, religious or political extremism. All these human behaviors manifest themselves so brightly and obviously, it’s almost impossible not to see the density of the void within the who is person acting out. Quasar galaxies destroying the objects which get too close to them before they, too, burn themselves out.
The rest of us? Well we still have our own voids. They are dormant. Not as hungry. But we know that void is there even if it’s not visible to others. We’re still seeking to feel whole. We’re looking externally for someone, some thing, to fill up that emptiness inside. And what, exactly is orbiting around this human void, the hole within us? Our bodies? Molecules? A lot of empty space? Isn’t this, too, like a galaxy with its celestial bodies, solar systems, a lot of empty space?
Is there a symmetry between the galaxies and our selves? Is there some sort of observer effect going on? Because of the way our conscious, or unconscious, minds seek to explain the world they encounter, is it possible for them to understand a galaxy, the galaxies, in any other way? Would a different sentient being, with a different physical make-up, perceive the galaxies differently? Make them a reflection of their consciousness?
As I said, all these musings were sparked by language. The words used to describe galaxies and ourselves are the same. So maybe the limitation is there in the words and there’s no linkage beyond that. It’s possible, probable, that there’s no big picture to be seen. I’m looking for something beyond the words that doesn’t exist. Yet I can’t help feeling that there is something there, just out of reach of words, just beyond human perception, and if we could evolve just enough to grasp it, we’d find a whole new type of universe.
There’s a place out there, and within, that has space but no holes. Everything is filled, fulfilled, where even nothingness is welcomed to its rightful place.