Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A sense of space and our awareness of the cosmos

I was on a bus a couple of weeks ago, in the late afternoon, on my way home from work. It was a clear bright warm day and I was looking out of the window at the sky, framed by occasional flashes of green from magnificent old trees in the rather swanky Adelaide suburbs I was traveling through.
I think I was contemplating the blueness of the sky and thinking what a fortunate colour it was. An orange sky, as we might experience on Venus, would feel so much harsher to our moist human sensibilities.

The blue sky is wonderful, but in the day it prevents us from seeing outwards as we can at night.  During the day, when we're awake, it's like the lid is on: we're looking down, inwards, at our feet and not above our heads. When the lid is raised at night, we're inside, usually, and then asleep. So we're not conscious always of the vasty deeps of the solar system and interstellar space. We don't feel ourselves part of space.

So different to fish, I thought to myself. In the water, you'd always be consious of up, and of the direction of the light. Even if you're under the surface, the surface shapes your experience of being in the sea. I imagined myself as if on the bottom of the sea, looking up at the sky as if it were the surface of the water, the clouds as the underside of white foamy waves.

This beautiful picture was taken by Andrea Scher at Sea World, San Diego. (From her blog Superhero Journal)

Even though the blue opaque sky still prevented me from seeing above, I was amazed at how thinking myself into this perspective made me feel sort of opened out, expanded. I could feel the presence of space so much more.  It was actually a sense of space. Like someone had lifted a heavy weight from my head - I was still moored to the surface, but I could feel the growing lightness above me. It was different to the marvellous lack of gravity that accompanies flying dreams - the earth was still definitely in control here - I just had an awareness of being at the bottom of something much larger, instead of being on the surface of something much denser.

What would it be like if this was our natural way of feeling?

(Of course I am very far from the first to dabble in this metaphor, but I was very struck by how it made me feel physically).