Beauty Beyond Mind
Mt. Zirkel Wilderness, Colorado // A basic part of living life as a sane person is the assumption that we can comprehend the world around us with a certain degree of competence. To that, I'd like to submit a quote from the famed Nobel Prize-winning physicist Werner Heisenberg:
"Not only is the universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think.”
Objective reality is unimaginable. Our brain exists to keep a bunch of bipedal apes alive in Africa's rift valley a million years ago. To think that we can even have a rudimentary grasp of the concept of a Universe is amazing, but to think that we would be able to understand it as a whole is inconceivable. Even our wildest fantasies are by definition 'imaginable,' they must exist in our brain. The objective universe has no such constraint.
Anyone who has seen the stars on a dark night, or the sunrise over a vast horizon, can attest to this feeling. There is a cognitive friction of finding yourself in an infinitely complex universe but being unable to wrap your mind around it. The more we learn through science, the more we learn about our own intellectual limitations. Today, Chaos Theory is credible science, and ecologists like George Sugihara have made headlines by throwing out equations altogether. They argue that there are simply too many variables for any equation to model ecological systems accurately. Too much complexity.
But science has also taught us about our brains' stunning creativity. Yes, by studying electromagnetic radiation, we've learned about the limitations of our vision, that even color is simply a construct of the mind. Conversely, we've learned that we live in a painting constantly being made for us by our brains. And the more we learn about our own physiological limitations, the more we learn that we truly are animals, not philosophical spirits lost in a material world, but components of the earth's biosphere. We learn that we belong.
(The photo here is where this lesson crystalized in the snow around me: sunrise over Mt. Zirkel, seen from the saddle below Big Agnes, September 2015.)