Knowing Our Place


This map of the Universe published the other day in Nature has certainly gotten attention. At first blush it looks as if we are put in our place, a little dot, on a little dot, on a spectacular fold of galaxies. How could we not feel small?

But to begin to think that way is only to assume that we actually are seeing this in some dis-embodied way, a pure ethereal vision, a godlke glance. Of course, that is not who we are, or where we are. Rather we are here, with our bodies, our eyes, marveling at the play of light. We this pattern precisely because we are a part of it. The cosmos is not some transcendent sphere,  but rather plays across my retina. I only know because of my body.

The conclusion that I am small is a conclusion wrought with this embodied self. It is the imagined transcendence. So instead of imagining ourselves upward, perhaps we should simply admit to our wonder and leave it at that.

One other observation stands out. If this is a true map, then we humans are not the only ones looking at it. In a universe of a hundred thousand galaxies, each with their hundred thousand stars — what is the likelihood of some other observer drawing the same map, seeing the same reality? To see the shape of the world or universe is to invite us into a communion with others, and not simply of our kind. (And of course, those others are every bit as embodied or situated in their own physical world as we are.)

Our place is with our body, lost in a vision of wonder.


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