“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.” ~ Carl Sagan
Trapped in the silent darkness of your skull is a magnificent brain that has never existed, nor will ever exist again. Your conscious awareness is more unique to you than your fingerprint.
You are more distinctive than a snowflake. Your independence has never before been experienced in all of the multiple histories of the universe, and it never will be experienced again.
In fact, the only thing that trumps your unique independence is the meta-unique interdependence of the universe living through you. You are your very own double-edged sword, piercing time and space with a cut so exclusively sharp and so phenomenally inimitable that nobody else can wield it but you.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As the famous Serbian Proverb states, “Be humble for you are made of Earth. Be noble for you are made of stars.”
Within the infinite cosmos is a finite universe that may or may not be part of an infinite multiverse, within which there are billions of galaxies, within which there are billions of stars.
Orbiting around one of these stars are nine planets, and within one of these planets there exists over seven billion different brains. One of those brains just so happens to be yours, within which there is an infinite inner cosmos of billions of neurons making trillions of connections.
These connections form the existential bedrock of your perception of reality. They lasso you to experiences that only you can have. In all of the world’s seven billion different human brains there exists seven billion different interpretations of something as seemingly simple as the concept of a fork. Or any concept, for that matter.
Even the concept of “concept” is interpreted differently, however minute that difference may be. We all might agree that a fork is a fork. We all might agree upon the definition of the word “fork.”
But we all have unique accumulated memories, our own feel, governing the concept of a fork. Every single one of those memories are unique to us. Even those memories shared with others, like with your mother or father, are remembered differently.
This difference is no small thing. It seems like it can just be shrugged off as deep philosophy. But it has far-reaching implications on how you perceive reality and how that reality is in turn shaped. Psychologically, your sense of self is an elusive moving target at best, and a target impossible to hit at worst.
Your brain is a relentless chameleon, camouflaging itself to the experience of its environment. It’s a persistent shape-shifter, constantly reprogramming its own programming through the persistence of memories (both true and false) and the emergence of new experiences (seen truly or falsely).
This is itself a double-edged sword: on the one side, your identity is never fixed because your experiences are so vast and incalculably plastic that there can never be an endpoint to the development of the self; on the other side, your programming may or may not be in accordance with the meta-programming of the interdependent universe.
You may or may not be a galaxy off-kilter from the universe, but you are always a galaxy within the universe no matter how off-kilter you may be.
You go through so many changes (mind body and soul) from hour to hour, day to day, that the changes are almost undetectable. Within about seven years every single atom in your body will be replaced by other atoms (body). Within that same amount of time your values will shift ever so slightly and your goals will change (mind).
Also within that same amount of time your accumulation of experiences and travels and burgeoning worldview will change the way you perceive reality both ontologically and existentially (soul).
Your memories of the past merging with the present seems to keep it all lined up and making sense, but only seemingly so, for memory is fallible at best and blatantly false at worst. The past is not a perfect recording, it’s an imperfect reconstruction.
Even the memories we are most certain of have a hint of mythology sprinkled into them. Your memories are more like myth-making than record-keeping. And that’s okay. That’s how you’re built. That’s what keeps you a fluid, plastic, and adaptable little galaxy in an ever-changing, infinitely complex universe.
The galactic structure of your brain is a cognitive narrative machine of universal proportions, spewing forth story after delicious story about how things connect to other things. So much so that it can subsume the entire universe with the story that it tells. And when those stories are properly oriented and in accordance with the universal construct, the cosmic source, the independent experience of the story becomes an interdependent feedback loop.
Outside the galaxy of your brain, the entire universe is just energy and matter. There is neither color, taste, sound nor scent. There is only energy and matter superpositioning itself over and over in a giant universal wave-function.
But on the inside of your brain, looking out, the universe is teeming with delicious morsels for all the senses to delight in: the taste of cinnamon, the scent of rain after a dry spell (petrichor), the sight of a beautiful sunset, the sound of a waterfall. The ache in your chest when your heart skips a beat with an engaging lover.
Your brain is intermittently a storyteller and a worldbuilder. Your brain literally builds the world you perceive and then tells an elaborate story to back it up.
Like David Eagleman said in The Brain: The Story of You, “Despite the feeling that we’re directly experiencing the world out there, our reality is ultimately built in the dark, in a foreign language of electrochemical signals. The activity churning across vast neural networks gets turned into a story of this, your private experience of the world: the light in the room, the smell of roses, the sound of others speaking.”
You are a walking, talking double-edged sword slicing through an interconnected universe under the delusion that you are separate. But you are the whole thing experiencing itself as you. You are the universe as much as the universe is you.
Perceptually, you’re a separate galaxy with your own unique galactic fingerprint, moving through a vast universe; but actually, you are the entire universe experiencing itself as a tiny galaxy: which is your brain connected to your nervous system, which is connected to your body, which is connected to your environment, which is connected to your earth, which is connected to your galaxy, which is connected to your universe, which is connected to you experiencing it all again in a way nobody will ever experience it again, ever.
Wow! What a rush. It’s enough to make your brain do backflips in your skull as your heart does pirouettes in your chest.
Like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, “We are all connected; to each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”
From inner to outer, from micro to macro, from independent galaxy (the unique experience of being you) to interdependent universe (the (also unique?) meta-experience of being interconnected with all things), it’s all you.
And me. And her. And him. And those girls doing the Double Dutch on the street corner. And those guys playing hacky sack in the alley. It’s all of us experiencing our own realities. It’s all connected.
We’re all connected: seven billion different brains experiencing seven billion different realities overlapping on a tiny blue dot in the corner of a tiny spiral galaxy in a universe so enormous that we’ve barely even scratched the surface of the tip of the iceberg of how enormous it really is.
It turns out the “rabbit hole” of actual reality goes a lot deeper than even Wonderland could offer. Your cosmic fingerprint literally is the universe going through the motions of being a galaxy experiencing the universe in a unique-to-only-you way.
As Donald Rumsfeld (of all people) said, “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”
So as the galaxy of your brain spirals down the rabbit hole of your universe (which is all you anyway), remember to have a good sense of humor. Otherwise those pesky unknown unknowns will be monsters you’ll have to battle instead of furry little unknown sidekicks that you can kick it with.
Like Lewis Carroll said, “Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.”
The moon un-suns the sky
as I write this poem
about the universe minus the “i.”
And the black un-blues the sky
while a billion stars punch holes into it
the length of the speed of light…
And still I write,
as the ink un-whites the page
into words that dismantle palimpsests & plight.
And a shooting light un-stars a galaxy
as I pause and make a wish
that un-boxes thinking outside the mind.
But never mind, these words
have just un-poemed poetry and I’m
not too sure if I should end it with a rhyme.