Thursday, August 22, 2013

Science and my seeking spirituality

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As a young boy, I was fascinated with so many things. My experience though is mainly appreciation of all things visual, things that I can see. I was fascinated with the image of Earth, pictured from outer space, I was fascinated by the Mona Lisa, that timeless painting of Leornardo da Vinci, a picture of a polar bear living the life in the Arctic. I also appreciate the natural landscape, as well as skylines of the urban jungle which is the Metropolis. Though this appreciation is not really spiritual in a sense. I find them beautiful and majestic, but that's it. I don't find anything spiritual in them. It is just late in my life that I wonder why? Then I asked myself, what is spiritual? How do I define a spiritual experience?

My teenage years brought me to a different level of appreciation, the Auditory kind. Like most teenagers living in the early 90's, I was introduced to music. The kind that you would hear on the radio. I don't have any explanation then, until now, as to why in the first 12 years of my life I don't have any liking to any music. I hear sounds and notes and melodies, but I have no liking. The Filipino band Eraserheads changed all of that. Though I am not thanking them for making me a music lover. It just happened that they have the right stuff for my ears. Maybe it's something else, or maybe it's really normal for teenagers to be introduced to music in their teenage years.

When I listen to music, with its different genres, I appreciate those that makes my brain shiver with delight. My friend called it an "eargasm" which I only heard late in my life. Rock music was the first of my attempts to find appreciation in music. As the years passed, it evolved to include appreciation in other genres like R&B, Trance, New Wave, 70's Disco and other styles of music such as Classical music and Eastern styles of music like Sufi and Japanese Zen style which is for the meditating kind. But I am not meditative in nature. I don't reflect and I don't meditate. But when I hear something for the first time, and I shiver and experience this kind of electric surge into my brain, then I start to cherish the melodies and close my eyes satisfied with what I am hearing.

This same appreciation in my Visual and Hearing faculties, helped me in appreciating Science more. Looking at a picture of a Galaxy, listening to a Science lecture, watching Carl Sagan's Cosmos, reading a 900 page Science book. All of these information gathering helped me gather more insights on what really is spiritual for me. I don't know why of all disciplines, Science is the one that earned my respect and liking. Is it because it answers my questions about life and its origins? Is it because of the sheer greatness of the technologies it brings to help man prosper?

As a kid, all information that I get is based on "Authority figures" like my parents, the teacher, the priest and mass media like television. At school, memorizing things could be a hard task, but I guess that is the only way we could get information permanently into our heads. At church, hearing sermons and interacting with your community's lay people helped you get their view of reality though the word of God. For my parents, well, their upbrining, their values, their beliefs, are also passed down to me. For mass media, anything goes (as far as I am concerned) good or bad information, misinformation they are all there, we just don't know how to filter the vast source of information we are getting there.

But as I grow older, as I experience the life outside of the Academe (that more than a decade of school), as I experience the "real world", I realize that living is not just about doing your best of your abilities to earn a living. I realize that living is not just about having friends and having a good time like it is your last,  I realize that living is not just about loving and taking care of your family and working a job to survive. Life is really an extension of your learning years, a continuous learning experience. And part of this experience is to seek your inner peace. Seeking something that would make your life and that of your loved ones easy and satisfying to live with. Sure, money will solve most of that, but I think that this desire to learn more about the Universe is the most important thing that we have.

Many would ask me, why learn if that could not be used in our everyday lives. Sure they have a point, but I am not talking about Math and Chemistry or Engineering. I am talking about seeking to answer the questions you have and learn more from it. Seeking to understand why we are here? What is our purpose? And having a Scientific outlook in life would answer that for you. Learning the answers about the cosmos, or even thinking what the answer would be, is a profound experience. Staring at the night sky, seeing the Milky way, is a spiritual experience for me, just by looking at the grand scale of things, realizing that the photons of a star 2,000 light years away, reached my eye after leaving that very star and travelled the vast dark space between that star and my eye for 2 thousand years. How exciting that thought would be. Looking at an image of an atom, thinking that you are actually made of trillions of that one atom you are looking at, is an exciting thought.

Carl Sagan says best when he described what Spirituality in a Scientific outlook would be:

“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.”

― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

My quest for this inner peace. This spirituality is not yet over. Nevertheless, I am confident that our search for who we are and our place in the cosmos can be answered. These are valid questions Science could answer, but until that answers are questioned, I am comfortable that having a Scientific worldview would make that search less fearful.