Lately, it is more and more fashionable to accept that life probably exists elsewhere in the universe, what with the billions of galaxies harboring planets that fall in the “habitable zone” with respect to their stars and the recent discoveries that point to earth not being that unique after all. This updated view of humanity’s place in the cosmos has challenged the foundation of both science and philosophy – the idea that humans are at the center of the universe – and fostered a new dialogue on our proper place among the stars. As our sphere of knowledge increases, showing greater nuances and refinements, we become less ignorant, less arrogant or insistent that we are alone in the universe, even though we have not yet found the definite proof that life – in whatever form – exists somewhere other than earth.
This shift in consciousness over the last several decades, perhaps reflects the evolution of our universal urge, primal at its core, to understand what exists beyond our current reach. Science fiction also contributed to this spark of our imagination with the writings of visionaries such as Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Rod Sterling and Gene Roddenberry, who prodded us to explore the boundaries of what is known, to constantly challenge “The Outer Limits” of human knowledge. They’ve envisioned in great clarity and details of alien life forms with physical appearances that drew heavily on species known here on earth. However, it is highly probable that what we’ll encounter as “life” on another planet will be completely different than anything we’ve seen, having grown and developed in an environment completely unlike ours.
Science fiction that speculates about the future of our own evolution has inevitably turned into today’s science facts. Star Trek and its many incarnations has repeatedly proven that what was once relegated to fiction has become an integral part of our daily lives. Over the last two decades, the advent of neural machines capable of speech and everyday conversation, touch screens as input devices, smartphones as powerful as computers, have all conspired to imbue us with an open mind to the limitless possibilities that await us.
Our concept of space/time travel is based on moving our physical bodies, somehow, to the past, the future or to another faraway place. Now, imagine that we also acquired the capability of transporting our individual conscious awareness to other realms of existence or understanding and to bring the memories of those experiences back with us. What sort of leap in understanding would we experience? A glimpse into those possibilities may be intuited from the few people around the world who have experimented with Ayahuasca, a root plant indigenous of the Amazon region.
At its most basic, our urge to know and understand our surroundings and beyond is based on our drive to transmute ignorance and is fueled by our curiosity of the unknown that ultimately leads to knowledge and wisdom. As children, we are gifted with an open mind that absorbs quickly and easily everything that we experience. Unfortunately, as we grow, we lose that yearning when faced with life’s realities and experiences – positive and negative – and become too conditioned by our infinitesimal circle of knowledge.
Fairy tales, in their elaborate representation of other realities and worlds, are important for children if only because within their stories, moral conflicts are interwoven which spark the imagination inherent in all cultural myths and become the foundation for the development of a mature approach to our expectations with society as the passage of time moves us from one stage of development into the next. Part of a true spiritual path is to rediscover our lost imagination, to transform our ignorance into intelligence and keep them alive with innocent curiosity – the key to all knowledge and wisdom.