Just Wondering…

Carol A. Hand

Teaching always makes me wonder about taken-for-granted assumptions passed down through the generations and how they affect our ability to really see and understand the world. For some reason, this morning I couldn’t help thinking about the way we refer to everything in the cosmos as the universe. The prefix uni- means “having or consisting of only one.”

 

Abell 520 – Hubble Image

 

Initially, I viewed the suffix, verse, literally, suggesting that universe meant one shared story. But that didn’t make sense after viewing the definitions of verse:

“writing that is arranged in a rhythmic pattern; poems: one of the parts into which a poem or song is divided: or one of the short parts into which the Bible is divided.” (Cambridge Dictionary)

Next, I explored the meaning of the word universe as a whole.

Universe – “All existing matter and space considered as a whole; the cosmos. The universe is believed to be at least 10 billion light years in diameter and contains a vast number of galaxies; it has been expanding since its creation in the Big Bang about 13 billion years ago.” (Oxford Dictionary)

That didn’t satisfy my curiosity about the origins of meaning, and why we need to characterize of the cosmos as one. I explored the etymology or origins of the term universe and learned the following.

“Borrowed from Latin universum (“all things, as a whole, the universe”), neuter of universus (“all together, whole, entire, collective, general, literally turned or combined into one”), from uni-, combining form of unus (“one”) + versus (“turned”), perfect passive participle of verto (“I turn”).”  (Wiktionary)

Still, I wondered why “all that is everywhere through all of time” has been viewed as one. We certainly don’t act as if we view other beings who share this reality as really one with us. But we do expect others to see the world as we do. We expect others and nature to comply with our immediate and personal wants and preferences.

What would the world be like if we thought about the cosmos differently? If we saw the cosmos, or even our world, as collections of multi- (many) verses?

Would our imaginations be open to an infinite number of new possibilities? There have been times in my life when I read science fiction and fantasy novels, especially when facing problems I couldn’t solve without first breaking through limiting assumptions. The global appeal of other worlds presented by creative literature, art, music, and films has been enduring and well-documented. So many of us long for a better world, although we may define what better means in many different ways.

I found the concept of multiverses appealing today.

“The multiverse is a theoretical framework in modern cosmology (and high energy physics) which presents the idea that there exist a vast array of potential universes which are actually manifest in some way.” (Thoughtco)

It satisfies my need to continue to explore the question I ask myself each time I teach research.

“Is there one truth, or are there many truths?”

 

A Cosmic Couple

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38 thoughts on “Just Wondering…”

  1. Carol, you wrote:

    “Still, I wondered why “all that is everywhere through all of time” has been viewed as one. We certainly don’t act as if we view other beings who share this reality as really one with us. But we do expect others to see the world as we do. We expect others and nature to comply with our immediate and personal wants and preferences.

    What would the world be like if we thought about the cosmos differently? If we saw the cosmos, or even our world, as a collections of multi- (many) verses?”

    An old friend and I were just discussing such issues, right before I saw your posting today.

    Thank you, Carol, you have given me something to consider, which up until now, I have treated as just more materialistic scientific gibberish.

    Why couldn’t there be more universes, after all, there are seven-plus billion of us very unique individuals? Definitely a new way for me to view and consider this subject!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Why can’t both be true? Can we not embrace the possibility that there are multiverses (possibly an infinite number) that share a common wholeness, or a common thread that unites them somehow?

    I am an individual, a unique being, but I am comprised of a multitude of individual cells, all with a unique life force and purpose. We are together both one and other simultaneously. What changes is our point of view…

    Just my thoughts on this subject, but I love the linguistic history lesson! Thank you for that!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I have often thought both could be true, too, Lisa, but I’m not sure the answer is knowable, at least for me at this moment. Even the metaphor of our bodies raises questions. Even if all of our cells share the same goal, achieving a healthy life, does that mean the same thing to every cell – maximizing overall health and longevity for each other including the health of the whole (our conscious self), or only for some? I also wonder about the role of diseases, pathogens, and toxic substances. Are these not part of our bodies and the world, too? Just wondering if each sees only a limited view of of it’s universe …

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Fascinating questions, Carol, and I think the last line says it all. “…each sees only a limited view of its universe…” That resonates deeply with me!

        Luckily (or maybe not), I believe we, as conscious and self-conscious beings are in a higher order enough awareness to be able to shift our perspective occasionally. And maybe that is our strength. Or our downfall…

        Thanks for the thought-provoking ideas here. I desperately needed something more intellectual and less emotional to focus on, if only to restore a sense (or illusion) of balance in my universe… 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you so much for sharing such important ponderings, Lisa. 🙂 In times like these, my muses remind me “to fly high” above the illusions of emotional earthly turmoil. Thankfully, they engage my curiosity about unanswered wonders I don’t understand instead. ❤

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I read a few months ago that one of the last things Stephen Hawkins did before his death earlier this year was coauthor a paper proposing an experiment that, if successful, would provide empirical support for the multiverse theory.

    It would take years for the experiment to be conducted, though, because it would involve launching a spacecraft into deep space — beyond our solar system. But I hope it’s performed. I would love to see the multiverse theory gain empirical support because — well, because I like the theory!

    Carol,. about 40 years ago, I became interested in mysticism — that is, the perspective of people like the Buddha, etc. It seems almost all mystics, regardless of their culture and regardless whether they lived in 500 BC India, 1500 AD Spain, or the present age, etc, tend to agree that all things are ultimately either One or are at least in some way pervaded by a oneness. At least that’s my understanding of it, but I’m no expert on the subject. I suspect you are familiar with what I’m talking about, so I’m merely proposing that — if things were left up to the mystics — the universe or multiverse (either one) would be in some sense One or pervaded by a oneness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would just comment that the sense of ‘oneness’ I would call “life” or “spirit” or perhaps “spirit life” but it’s not something we could interact with. We are not one, obviously, so we must come to unity, or peace, some other way.

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      1. Perhaps you’re right, Sha’Tara. I’m an agnostic on the question. Mystics, however, tend not to be (although some are agnostic on the question). Most are convinced that the oneness of all things is just what it sounds like it is, is ultimate reality, and that it can be directly experienced — and has been directly experienced by them. There is no doubt that is the position of the majority of mystics, both historically and today. One has to make up one’s own mind about that, of course.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you so much for sharing such thought-provoking issues and possibilities, Paul. As I mentioned to Lisa, I honestly don’t know the answer to the question about whether there are one or many truths, but the idea of the multiverse fascinates me. I would love to learn more about the information you shared about Hawkins.

      Perhaps some mystics have known or do know the answer, but I doubt the honesty of anyone who needs to publicly claim they do know. What ultimately matters from my perspective, though, is not what we know or claim to know, but how we use what we know for the benefit of others and how we treat those who are the most vulnerable.

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      1. Just tonight, I read a couple news articles on Hawking’s final paper, which proposed an empirical experiment for seeing if there is a multiverse. Apparently, Carol, his paper also announces that, if there is a multiverse, all the universes would necessarily for some reason be governed by the same laws of nature. That’s interesting — and not what I anticipated.

        The problem with mysticism is that, even if the mystical experience of oneness is genuinely true, mystics have no reliable means of testing whether it is true. So I think you’re right about that.

        By the way, like you, I’ve learned to distrust anyone — even mystics — who says they know these things for certain. They remind me of those preachers who claim to know for certain that God hates homosexuals, or liberals, or feminists, etc. I think that’s their ego and their business model talking, not the truth.

        While I think there is value in knowing as much as we can about our world, even if what we know makes no one any money, I also think that — in the end — it’s not what we know, but how we use what we know to create a just, fair, and decent society for all that matters more than anything else. I so wish we would do a better job of that. You and I seem to see eye to eye on that.

        Last, and this is a long shot, do you know of any courses on Native American culture that can be audited for a reasonable price over the internet? I am especially interested in Native American worldviews and spirituality. What little I learned about that at university 40 years ago was so fascinating that much of the little I learned has stuck with me all these decades. .

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you so much for such thoughtful comments, Paul, and for sharing such crucial insights. I wish I had more time to reply in a substantive manner but I have a pile of grading awaiting.

          However, I do want to briefly list a few books you might find more helpful than a class on Native American views. The first is “Night Flying Woman: An Ojibway Narrative,” by Ignatia Broker (1983). Broker is a gifted Ojibwe storyteller who recounts her family history in this beautifully written book. The second is Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants,” by Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013). Kimmerer is a Potawatomi botanist who elegantly interweaves science and indigenous knowledge throughout. The third is “The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World,” by Wade Davis (2009). Davis paints a much larger picture of indigenous knowledge and its importance as an anthropologist and ethnobotanist.

          For some reason, these are the three books that came to mind when I read your question about courses. Each conveys information about indigenous cultures in a manner that avoids simplistic stereotyping. Please let me know if any of these works resonate with you. I do have shelves filled with resources I can recommend. Sending my best wishes. ❤

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  4. A thought-provoking post, Carol. In my limited understanding of the physical laws governing our known universe, the possible existence of other universes, the multiverse, would not alter “the truth” governing our lives on Planet Earth.

    Then again, imagine our shared psychosis if the human species on Earth are a transplant from another universe!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Hi Carol, I don’t know what’s true or what’s really out there beyond what can be seen. I know I’m lucky, really lucky to share this small piece of time and space with the folks beside me, the earth around me and the stars above me. I can’t even begin to understand my own actions let alone what’s above. I loved your post. Take care. Bob

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bob, I love your humble honesty and the deep beauty of your down-to-earth wisdom about what really matters in life – gratitude “to share this small piece of time and space with the folks beside me, the earth around me and the stars above me.” I agree that gratitude and loving relationships with the people and world around us are ultimately what give our lives meaning. Thank you for the gift of your profound, poetic insights. ❤

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  6. Loved reading your thoughts and all of the comments. You’ve built an engaging audience. From the Buddhist perspective I understand the concept of Oneness, from the creative perspective I fully embrace the multiverse. For in many senses each human being can be a universe in one’s own self.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Warning, this comment rambles a bit Lol……“Universe”, what a great peeling the onion back meditation exercise. 🙂 Perhaps pessimistic but, I wonder if when, Super-zooming a microscope in from the vastness of multi-verses to the scale of our culture, “Would a multiverse explorer see our human race division without first special hate filter lenses”?

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