To Measure Is To Destroy

Few attractions are as delightful as staring at the night sky when we are far away from the synthetic lights of civilization. In an instant, we suddenly realize that we are engulfed by a velvety darkness extending endlessly into the distance. Standing on a relatively tiny planet that is light years away from the center of our galaxy, we are reminded of our "insignificance." Our immediate reaction is to measure and compare our presence, our size, our purpose to the remainder of the Universe. Ordinary human beings some tens of thousands of years ago would not have impulsively measured their wonder in terms of distance, redshift or light years. They would not have been able to readily name the constellations or the stars. There were no terms like Big Dipper or Milky Way or even Venus or Mars for that matter. For them there was only that deep, mysterious extension of their immediate surroundings, a darkness illuminated by countless twinkling and glowing points in the sky with occasional zipping flashes of light. They were living phenomena, not objects hung in the heavens. If anything, they saw shapes and figures that fueled their imagination and inspired their rituals. Their awe was more visceral than intellectual and was probably accompanied by immeasurable reverence and mystery. Most importantly, they felt that their individual and collective actions, their destiny and the movement of the heavens were somehow intricately connected. We know this because of the ancient study of astrology.

For many of us today, the awe we feel when looking at the night sky may be no less intense than that of the ancients; but it is routed more often through our heads rather than our guts. Thanks to our schooling, our wonder is couched in conceptual terms of space and time and defined by measurement. We are rarely locked into the eternity of a moment of awe that we escape the gravity of thoughts of tomorrow. It is the tic-toc of time that prohibits us from entering that forbidden Garden of Eden. While we may marvel at the knowledge that the nearest star is approximately 4.3 light years away, the source of that wonder is in concepts and not in experience. The problem with measurement is that it often reaches outside of experiential limits. How many of us have traveled a light year or seen a trillion dollars? Outside of our human experience, numbers lose their meaning and effectiveness. They are only mentally stimulating. An intellectual experience is sensed in the conscious mind, which processes events and phenomena linearly. In contrast, a visceral, guttural experience is felt in the body, the energies of which are multi-dimensional and constantly carrying on different functions.

Today we have very little sense of a connection between the movement of the heavens and our personal lives. For many of us in the "first world", technology shields us in many ways from our natural environment. When we are cold, we turn on the heat in our homes. When we are hot, we have air conditioning. When darkness falls, we illuminate our streets and living spaces with electricity. The majority of us no longer have to go out hunting and anticipate the movements and rhythms of nature in order to capture our prey. Food is brought to our local stores and is packaged neatly in measured amounts. We are in a sense castaways that have drifted away from the real world into a projection or an approximation of it. We thank technology for our progress but have not really examined the dark side of its benefits. In shielding us from the discomforts of physical life, technology also secretly robs us of the power, joy and wisdom of simplicity and our connection with our natural environment. We live increasingly in an illusory bubble, a fragmented world constructed from complex numbers and formulas and driven by economic models. It is a world built on a value system that has no significance or purpose to the Universe. Do trillions of dollar bills have any value to the rings of Saturn? All things in the world, including the sky, land, food, animals and people, have been apportioned and converted into measurable quantities for consumption or exploitation. Is there anything under the sun that cannot be measured out, bought or sold? When we measure we actually devalue because we define our measured object's usability according to subjective or relatively arbitrary value systems.

Of course our ability to measure is essential to our survival, but when we extend it beyond our basic needs and begin to exploit our environment and fellow creatures out of fear of not having enough, we enter into a dangerous situation of power and manipulation. This whole problem is embodied perfectly in some of the scriptures of western civilization. In the Bible, the second chapter of Genesis, the god Jehovah asks Adam to name all of the creatures of the earth. Jehovah effectively gives man dominion over all the land. And when Adam and his consort Eve eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, their eyes are opened. That is the "sin", represented by the awakening to the power of fragmentation and manipulation, that casts them out of the Garden. And that's where we find ourselves today, outside of the walls of the Garden, wandering in a desert of sorts. We are in a real wasteland where our humanity is becoming increasingly fragmented and sold off.

There is an irony here. In order to measure and weigh something, we must see it as separate from ourselves. One cannot measure the weight of one's heart or foot unless it be cut off. When we measure, we are essentially objectifying, valuing, claiming and dominating that object (or person). Strangely however, our own object-oriented science has effectively broken down and, for the last one hundred years, has been pointing to the fact that the observer and the observed cannot be separated. Therefore, in dissecting that which we observe, we dissect ourselves. We are truly fragmenting and hence destroying ourselves with time. This fact is obvious enough, perfectly exemplified by a modern life insurance policy where the loss of life, limb and appendage is valued at a certain monetary figure, based on the exploitation of its function or usability.

As the situation becomes more dire, we may in time awaken to our dilemma. But will we have completely encased ourselves in our illusory reality bubble? Those who are courageous and adventurous enough may find their way back into the Garden to eat of the Tree of Life and become immortal. Their immortality does not involve living forever; rather it is an ability to completely step out of time. They are the fortunate ones who can look up at the night sky and in an instant truly sense the vastness of the Universe in their guts. And to truly live in that instant is to live an eternity.

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