The universe is a chasm of inconceivable space, surrounding us dizzily from all directions. We are afraid of the distance between adjacent stars and we are afraid of the distance between adjacent atoms; any open space is a breeding ground for phantoms. When confronted with the unknown and the wild, we have two choices: to build strength enough to join the wilderness, to revel in its fathomless wonders; or to hide within our fear, to tear down everything we can’t control and build walls to insulate ourselves against the sky.
I am trying to follow the path of strength, but it’s such a steep and narrow road. I want to look at the universe unflinchingly, to meet the eyes of God and hold his gaze. But the two ravens, fear and desire, circle above me; they try to push me off the pathway into the endless black abyss.
Our eyes were not meant for the universe in its rawness. Cognitive science reduces the human mind to mechanical computation. Evolutionary biology shows us that everything we do is rooted in selfishness. Quantum physics is maddeningly impossible to interpret. If we dwell on these things too long, we may find ourselves swallowed by insanity.
Cognitive science was my own personal bane. I got caught in the trap of watching each of my thoughts unfold, seeing how the analogical links I made were shaping my understanding of the world. It became impossible to believe in any thought or reason I concocted, because I could easily see how each thought arose and how many alternatives were possible.
And so I was almost ready to turn back, to retreat to the ancestral forest and abandon my quest for knowledge. But now I understand: if the discoveries of science seem ugly, if they warp our minds into madness, it is only because this knowledge was not meant for Man. We are digging deeper into these questions than evolution has prepared us for, and we’re finding that the universe is stark and alien and Other. If I’m disheartened by the knowledge that I’ve gained, it’s because I have started to pierce through the veil of human illusions; I am starting to see the universe as it truly is.
And so I will continue on my quest, armed with this understanding: even the ugliness of the universe is beautiful; even my descent into madness is beautiful. We are dealing with cosmic mysteries that were not meant for the eyes of Man. I will climb this steep and narrow road, even though the abyss still yawns before me. For now, when I look into its depths, I see that it is full of stars.