The immense gravity of equality – Asheboro Courier Tribune


Looking back across history to its murky horizons, the most superseding human endeavor has been the struggle for equality. From tales of the Israelites striving to be free of Babylonian and Egyptian slavery to the many revolutions of the last 300 years, humanity wishes and moves toward the balance of equity.

As we progress, we have generally moved away from inequality; sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, often violently. Some regimes have always operated under the assumption that certain humans are less important than others, but there is an inherent and growing revulsion to this kind of thinking generally. Majorities may take time to come around to the virtues of equality, but sooner or later the idea takes hold, leaving only outliers hanging onto bad faith arguments on the margins of society.

From the cosmic perspective, all of humanity’s prejudices are rendered moot. Although we have only begun to plumb its depths, the howling wilderness of space is of a magnitude incomprehensible to the lowly lives on our “pale blue dot.”

On April 10 of this year, when scientists revealed a picture of the supermassive black hole in the Messier 87 galaxy, 55 million light years away — a celestial body that could easily encompass the entirety of our solar system within the sable disc of its event horizon — a change of perspective loomed over us.

Nothing like it has ever been seen before. Scientists have speculated and used math and physics to describe such mind boggling monsters, but until now, no one could show us the truth of it. In an unprecedented initiative, hundreds of astronomers from all over our tiny speck of rock collaborated by training 200 observatories and space-bound telescopes at the galaxy M87 for two years, gathering 5 petabytes of data (one petabyte being 5 million gigabytes).

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Much to the joy of Copernicus and Galileo, this unification of purpose across otherwise hard and fast cultural and geographical barriers is the next step in the evolution of the human urgency for equality. Against the gargantuan backdrop a universe with supermassive black holes in it, our terrestrial prejudices and indignities seem less important than a war between rival bacteria in a cow’s gut.

It is impossible to see how can we continue to subjugate and marginalize each other over paltry border disputes and skin color compared to such incomprehensible realities.

Libraries are full of books on the histories of wars and genocides, revolutions and rebellions. Just a few shelves away are the quiet and meager suppositions of scientists and thinkers who are moving the attention of history to a perspective far wider than our earthly struggles.

If an alien craft suddenly lowered into our atmosphere, or if the marvels of the Milky Way were more evident in our daily lives, it would be difficult not to see things a little more clearly in their triviality. The supermassive black hole in M87 is that new perspective. If science can motivate humans to work together for such noble education, then the sky’s the limit.

The long cons of rivalry are silenced in the presence of our cosmos. The scientific curiosity that led to the M87 photos has given us a glimpse of a universe free of and immune to human conflict. We may have mastered the power of the atom, but the reflection that even the ability to destroy all life or hold it hostage becomes pointless as we view a gaping maw of indifference so powerful it devours electromagnetic energy, light and warps time.

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We often hear of Robert Oppenheimer quoting the Bhagavad Gita with awe at the completion of the atomic bomb. However, I prefer W.H. Auden on the matter of space and what lies out in the stars. In the last stanza of his poem “The More Loving One,” he writes, “Were all stars to disappear or die, I should learn to look at an empty sky, And feel its total dark sublime, Though this might take me a little time.”

Against the photographic evidence of a solar system-dwarfing black hole, to continue fighting one another for ethnic and cultural reasons is purely nihilistic. Science has demonstrated our real and undeniable equality and has further shown us that, in the face of the cosmic, we are already one.

* Dave Bare is Teen Services, Reference Librarian for the Randolph County Public Library. Have questions or topics you’d like Dave to address? Send an email to teenzone@randolphlibrary.org.



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