We Are All Miracles
The more I look at life and the amazing universe we live in, the more miraculous it all seems. By miraculous, I mean splendidly and superbly amazing regardless of whether or not we believe in a divine creator, universal spirit, natural evolution, or nothing at all. Here are some observations:
- I am writing this and you are reading this. Perhaps one of the most amazing human powers is the ability to communicate ideas using language. It comes so naturally to most of us, that we simple take it for granted.
- Most children acquire language very quickly and without much help from adults. There are many schools of thought about how we learn language, though most children exposed to a range of languages at an early age will become fluent in more than one language in ways that have little to do with adult notions about how to teach language. Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct is an excellent place to start exploring the wonders of language.
- Language is used to express the nearly infinite expanse of knowledge, imagination, experience, and artistic expression. All of this is available in oral traditions (like telling jokes at parties), print media, radio and television, computer media, and the Internet.
- Music is another capacity that makes us human. Most of us respond to or appreciate music in some form. Remove the music track from most movies and much of the movie itself will lose much of its emotonal and intellectual impact.
- Like language, music is something that most children pick up relatively effortlessly, yet a lifetime of study will not cover it all.
- The more we study how the brain processes music, the more amazing it gets. If put on the spot, most people can sing a recognizable version of some song. I once met a pianist who could play anything he had ever heard. Most of us have this capacity to some degree. My hunch is that most people who grew up in western cultures will pull a Beatles tune out of their head more often than not. Wayne Chase in How Music REALLY Works takes a good shot at explaining why that is.
- Oliver Sacks at http://www.oliversacks.com/ provides fascinating insights and research into how the brain processes music by looking at cases where people have unusual or missing capacities for music. Modern imaging tools allow scientists to see much more activity in real time than ever before.
- There seems to be no end to the human imagination as expressed in writing, images, art, and music.
- Imagination and perception are so intertwined in humans that it is difficult to say where on starts and the other ends. I have been thinking about an article exploring why this is a mixed blessing for living in the world. Even scientists tend to perceive the world as they believe it exists, so it is a challenge to see things truly objectively.
- Memory is one of those human powers that we don't tend to appreciate until we have a problem with it. Most of us can recall visual, audio, and emotional details of experiences in our lives in surprising detail.
- Although sometimes imperfect and not always at our command, we can often recall scenes and vivid details from scenes in our lives. A room full of hard-drives may not cover it.
- Without our memories, we lose our identities. Oliver Sacks at http://www.oliversacks.com/ and in Musicophilia explores cases of severe memory loss.
I suspect that you could more or less randomly pick a square foot of the earth's surface and not exhaust the wonders of that square foot in a lifetime of study, including all of the animal and plant life, soil properties, ecological influences, geological history, relationship to climate, and more. I saw an model of a square inch of soil blown up to a cube around six feet by six feet. The estimate was that was perhaps a million microscopic spiders per square foot of soil.
- The earth provides a nearly infinite, dynamic variety of life forms, landscapes, and weather to sustain, challenge, and inspire us. Perhaps every place on earth has its own beauty and power.
- There may be more about our oceans unknow than known. What we do know is captured beautifully in the The Blue Planet.
- Albert Einstein said, "Not only is the universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think."
- Here are some images and ideas from the Hubble telescope: http://hubblesite.org/gallery/. Amazing!
- Whether we believe that the universe just happened with the big bang, a divine entity created it, or a divine entity created the conditions for the universe to expand and evolve, it is amazing that we are here at all. The physical properties of the universe have to be just so that the sun does not cool or heatup in a short period of time, that gravity works in a way that the earth has a stable orbit around the earth and that the moon has a stable orbit around the earth. We are just the right distance away from the sun to allow life to exist. The conditions developed to sustain life over a long period.
By simply living and experiencing life, we living a miracle every day!
— Greg Dixon