As a curious observer of science, it has always fascinated me that the limits of our understanding does not hold back our intrigue into amazing discovery. Despite not being much of an academic, I have learned to appreciate how fields such as astronomy and philosophy can play an important part in developing our ability to seek meaning beyond our own experiences of life. At least, that’s what I found out this past week.
I attended the World Science Festival in Brisbane as part of the media team, and felt overwhelmingly in awe of the astounding insights into neuroscience, biology, and astronomy that I learnt over the course of just three days. But my biggest takeaway was the fact that, both young and old, were insatiably curious to push the limits of their understanding into the realm of the unknown, especially in light of all that we saw and heard from the festival’s many, many participants and delegates.
From my own perspective, it was a privilege to reconnect with an old friend, Dr. Jennifer Wiseman, a senior astrophysicist from NASA. It took me back to my days as a student in California, as a budding 21-year-old editor interviewing Dr. Wiseman outside the college cafeteria. However, learning about the important discoveries from the past, and the future of astronomy and the intersection of technology, was quite fascinating to me, especially as someone who loves the excitement of an exploratory journey.
Come to think of it, we all seem to be on a journey, but our destination may look different to others. What we learn along the way makes a bigger impact on who we are, rather than what we aim to achieve. As a believer in never-ending learning, I think it is reasonable to presume that, at some point, we have to come to an understanding of who we are, but also, who we aren’t.
I recall hearing a story from a man who was born with no limbs, and, for most of his life, had to learn to do basic things that most of us who are born with two arms and two legs may take as a daily routine, but for him, was a daily struggle. Yet, instead of letting his circumstance define who he was, and who he wasn’t, he decided to focus on what he was capable of. Writing in his book, Limitless, Nick Vujicic states that “I found happiness when I realised that as imperfect as I may be, I am the perfect Vujicic”.
Looking for Darkness
Despite obvious setbacks, we all have the ability to learn and understand things beyond our own reason. While Dr. Wiseman was sharing her insights from her work with the Hubble Space Telescope, she made an intriguing comment, “sometimes, we have to seek out the darkness, because that’s where the light is most visible”. Although I had heard that before from the Bible, I hadn’t paid much attention to ‘seeking out the darkness’. How do we actually do that?
Looking back to the time when I found myself in Israel, there was one day on our schedule where we went to visit an ancient tunnel running underground the length of the Old City of Jerusalem. I realised, too late of course, that my camera was not going to be able to capture adequate footage on account of the darkness of the cavernous tunnel gaping before us. The further we went in, the darker the tunnel seemed to get, which was again complicated by the realisation that the tunnel also served as an aqueduct, and used to supply water to the citizens of the town during earlier times. By the time I waded halfway in, I wanted to turn back.
But with no light behind or before me, the only way was to press forward. Eventually, there was a flicker of light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, which I had to stop myself from running towards. By the time I got outside, I had a strange feeling to actually go back in.
What makes us wonder in majesty at the complexity of our surroundings, the unknowable mysteries of the cosmos, the seeming incomprehensibility of the future? Perhaps we may never know; or maybe the answer lies in being curious enough to seek out what is beyond our own understanding, the fact that our journey is one we share with others, who, like us, are simply looking for that flicker of light in the darkness.
Joseph Kolapudi is a TCK born in Australia to Indian parents, who returned from California where he was studying theology at Fuller, and is now working with a missions agency, continuing his love of writing by contributing to PSI.
Joseph Kolapudi's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/joseph-kolapudi.html