Look up in the sky

For now however we are fixated with our huge egos, our petty interests and even pettier fights.

Farrukh Khan Pitafi August 08, 2014

Frustrated? Can’t take this kerfuffle anymore? Why are you wasting your time? Doom is not coming just yet and life is too short. You are born and you die. The tiny bit in between is called life. Why waste it worrying about politics. It is time to put an end to the Pavlovian conditioning that political television has brought us and enjoy life. And the foundation of joy is reflection.

How many times I ask you did you sit under naked sky, look up and wonder about its infinite vastness, incredible beauty. If my memory serves me right this question was beautifully put in Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World, somewhere around the rabbit analogy. Of course we do look skyward when we are angry, when we want to complain or pray and in some cases when we want to look for a messiah. But never for the right reasons. It is like living in a beach house and never bothering to look and wonder at heartbreaking beauty of ocean and its unimaginable size.

In many ways, civilisation has killed good old wonder and denied us all gifts that led us to it. Skyscrapers and the city pollution obscure the beauty of the sky. It so happens that I know at least a few individuals who were born in Karachi, never ever travelled outside the city and left the world without knowing nature in its true form. And Karachi happens to be a port city.

There is something sobering about this sky we speak of. Infinite distances, no ends or edges and yet it all appears to us a two dimensional planetarium projection. You can buy a cheap telescope and dig deeper into it. The dance of materials, of creation and death, all continuing at the same time. Can you imagine that there are celestial bodies bigger than our entire solar system? That there might be countless planets like our own? And the distances between them in light years? Unfathomable. Ridiculous. Yet quite real!

Sky gazing can be a sport. It can be an excellent pastime. Some of us deserve it, others most certainly need it. Especially the politicians who need to know their true import in the world. Little insects crawling on a pale blue dot swimming in the incredible vastness of the universe. And yet we flatter ourselves with the delusions of grandeur, of self-importance and our messianic missions. What will become of this all, sirs, when it is time to move on?

I have always believed that our petty differences, may they be political, religious, ethnic, territorial or lingual could be resolved in a heartbeat if we could only learn about dangers lurking in the uncharted darkness of the skies. That is exactly why we choose to ignore it. Look anywhere but there. Kill, burn, fight, shout, cry and be done with it.

Imagine if an alien race was to reach out and make first contact. Or if we were to learn that a giant meteor was to hit our planet in weeks. What would have become of our differences? But we seldom think. Imagine now that there are countless worlds hidden up there in the clusters of stars. And they have life forms just like us. Our distant cousins. Not blood related but in terms of the blue print. And we live and die without knowing them and their exotic customs. What if the purpose of life was to reach out to them? And they held answers to all our woes, cures of all our diseases?

Someday, perhaps we can colonise space, escape the Malthusian trap and know what truly is out there for us. For now however we are fixated with our huge egos, our petty interests and even pettier fights. Escape from Lilliput is possible but the mediocrity of our imagination keeps holding us back. We are stuck not because we do not have potential but because we still believe in looting, plundering and beheading one another. But a day will come when all humanity will be one.

And this coming from a citizen of a nation which hasn’t learnt the virtues of unity yet. But still a man can dream. So look up folks because there is infinite wisdom and entertainment up there. No Sheikh Rashid, Imran Khan, Tahirul Qadri, other government and opposition figures. Dream on.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2014.

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Sid | 9 years ago | Reply

Excellent piece. Some have poked holes in it saying things like "what of the hungry"....but that is besides the point. Also, its not like we care for the hungry with our differences intact, so there should be no problem for us in keeping aside our differences and gazing at the sky.

Currently we indeed have a serious case of Delusions of Grandeur.

Shakir Lakhani | 9 years ago | Reply

ZAB's nationalization of education followed by Zia's so-called Islamization have ensured that most Pakistanis are morons who will not understand a word of what you've written. Even most of those ET readers who are able to read and understand English have probably never read or heard about the billions of galaxies out there. I once told a mullah about planets and solar systems and galaxies and how there could be millions of worlds out there with super-intelligent beings who could one day invade our planet and eat us all up. He shrugged and looked away, convinced that I was crazy. If I'd told him about the dinosaurs and how there have been cataclysms which have destroyed most life-forms on earth many times, he'd probably have asked his followers to lynch me.

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