Cold winter nights give us the best view of the heavens. Out in the country with no humidity we can see the stars stretch across the Milky Way. If you use a lot of imagination, the stars take shape into any number of characters. Some form a lion. Some form Greek gods. At least two form common household appliances (the dippers). These cold, silent stars assist sailors with navigation and illuminate the darkest hours.
Stars are part of us. Every element in your body was forged eons ago in a dying star. Elder stars passed away in magnificent celestial events spanning thousands of years. Life as we know it began with the passing of an ancient cosmic star. Death begat life. Perhaps the passing of our Sun will provide the galactic primordial ooze necessary for life to take hold on another star light years away.
Humans possess a poor sense of scale. Each of us goes about our days giving incredible thought to mundane problems. We worry about petty office politics. We fret whether we’re the most popular in our social group. We lose sleep over whether we make enough money to keep up with our neighbors.
What difference do any of these problems make? There are legitimate problems. If you’re hungry, homeless, or sick, then you need some help. After you solve the basics, then what problems do you have?
Look at the stars. Do stars have problems? Do stars worry about what their planets are up to? Do the stars have concerns?
It seems a little silly to question the perspective of a star. Stars are nothing more than bulbous, hot nuclear furnaces burning themselves out over time. They’re really big, but otherwise just stupid heavenly objects.
Then again, you’re reading this. You’re nothing more than a meatbag with an overly inflated sense of self. Your concept of consciousness is nothing more than electrochemical processes firing in your brain. Your consciousness is an illusion manifesting constantly as an emergent reaction from the interplay of millions of chemical reactions occurring in your brain simultaneously. There is no such thing as love, happiness, or sadness. Your chemical reactions provide your body with chemical stimulants that are interpreted as emotions. Free will may be little more than an illusion. Your destiny is better described as the end result of naturally occurring chemical and physical processes beyond your ken.
The materialistic description of consciousness is fairly depressing. So try this instead: If you’re reading this then you’re likely hearing the words I’m writing in your head. You have real feelings. You feel good about succeeding. You feel bad about failing. Babies make you happy for reasons you don’t really understand. Life is an event through which your consciousness continuously floats toward some unknown end. Your destiny remains unwritten.
Various philosophers have taken both of these positions over the years. Some materialists think that we’re little more than arrogant meatbags, and others think of us as rational, autonomous beings. The point is that even humans can’t agree on the nature of consciousness for our own species.
Now, do you really think it’s impossible for the Sun to have a perspective? Is it really impossible for the Sun to experience the universe in its own way? Sure, stars, comets, and quasars are unlikely to sit around and worry about how to reduce their gross annual income for interstellar taxes. But the fact that we lack the imagination to think like a star does not mean that a star does not think.
Once upon a time scientists confined the concept of consciousness to humans. Now, it’s routinely expanded to include apes, chimps, dolphins, dogs, and other animals. But what about bacteria? They replicate and have their own agendas. And viruses? What about DNA? Or atoms?
The point is that our small window into the universe through our human consciousness is neither the only view into existence nor the best view. Who knows what it’s like to be a star? Or a mountain? Or yourself? Who knows what it’s like to exist as a human divorced from all stress, worries, and other demons of the ego?
Fear, the loathsome bastard child of pride, blinds us from opening our minds to these possibilities. Collectively, we fear death more than anything else. This fear may stem from a total lack of understanding. Sure, human consciousness may end with the expiration of our bodies, but that does not necessarily mean that experience comes to an end. There are an infinite ways of existing in this universe. Don’t get too hung up on just one.