Last year, I was fascinated by the constellation Orion. It’s a very easy to spot constellation, if you have a generous view of the sky. It supposedly resembles the shape of a hunter with four bright stars defining its shoulder and legs. The other three stars forms the belt of his skirt. It was conceived as a constellation about thirty centuries ago, when hunters wore the skirts and belt. I was especially fixated on a star at the centre of the belt. It is 26 light years away and is called Tabit. I was 26 and that made Tabit a very significant, symbolic and recurring inspiration throughout 2016.
Every stream of photons I perceived gazing at Tabit reminded me of its epic voyage through the vast cosmos that started almost at the same time when I was born. It had a metaphorical meaning for me as these photons travelled the cold and dark universe, escaping giants and puny obstacles in between, traversing through unfathomable distance, to conclude their voyage in the moist and small orifice of my iris; where they mutate to create an electrical signal that allowed me to perceive their source – Tabit. Photons travel at the highest chase possible without conning the physical rules. This speed makes them oblivious to the perception of time. They travel through space and feel no passage of time. I am going off tangent again, this is a discussion for another post.
Observing Tabit for nights after nights, it dawned on me that I am restricting my vision and limiting the view of the grandeur to affiliate with the familiar. I delved into vistas and rejected the panorama. I courted Orion obsessively and talked about it extensively. I was relatively oblivious to other stars. In reality, Orion is a collection of random stars seceding apart and it is only our imagination that held them together for last three millennia.
Constellations are defined only in our collective imagination, transforming randomness to order and connecting dots to pattern. This idea of accepting collective imaginations is one of the founding stone of our civilisation. We assign meaning to beaten wood pieces turned to paper and call them currency. We draw imaginary lines in political maps to rule and build an empire. We invented directions, religions and very recently in 20th century imagined careers. These are the fiction that we collectively accept as a functioning society. We create legends and make them immortal through stories that are told for generations till they become realities or myths.
If someone looked at the Orion now, they might not see a hunter. Our contemporary symbols for hunter doesn’t have a shield and sword with a man in a dress. It did when the legend was born, we learned the story from our ancestors, retold it, embracing it closer every time and now it defines our night sky.
Our conditioning for approval, conservation and conformity starves the imaginative landscape. We find solace in discovering the established to justify our realities. This longing for collective conformity starves our imagination and deprives us of the joy of encountering novel experiences and connecting the dots that wasn’t in the primal constellations.
Twenty four centuries ago, Aristotle believed that the downward fall of heavy bodies was related to their nature, they tend to move towards the centre of the universe – Earth, which is their natural place. This geocentric belief lasted till late 17th century, till Galileo and then Newton were able to explain lunar and planetary motion, and discover new planets in the heliocentric model through gravity. This theory explained falling of rock and trajectory of planets leading us to collectively dissolve our earlier belief and accept the new radical theory of gravity. This theory of gravitational force ran pretty well for nearly two and a half century till Einstein decided to ascribe gravity to the spacetime curve instead of a force. Einstein model was successful in detecting black holes, understanding time dilation and ultimately create a blue dot on our maps that can effectively tell our exact location through GPS. In the past decade even Einstein’s theory was choking with fundamentals of quantum theory. So, pretty soon the stars of knowledge that form the constellation of gravity will be reshaped and we will have a new collective reality.
Education implores us to discover new horizons, entertain the exceptions and be nomadic to experience a new metaphorical sun everyday. We are conditioned to a life of security, conservation and conformity. It is supposed to give us peace of mind but all it attracts is misery by depriving us of the joy that come from adventures and encounters with new experiences. Training prepares us against surprises while education prepares us for surprises.
Do something adventurous. Take a walk on the wild side. Kiss some river. Hug a mountain. Stop googling for a day and try duckduckgo, brush with your left hand for a week, make yourself uncomfortable, talk to a stranger, break a rule and what ever you do, Stay Awesome!
Only by deserting few stars, we can conceive new constellations!