04 Mar Sunsets

This evening, I found myself confronted by the setting sun while on a running trail in Austin, Texas. There is something seemingly sacred about sunsets. Perhaps the beauty of this dusk ritual lies in the repetitive cycles of predictability humans love so much. But while they are a physical reminder of our connection to the universe, sunsets are also optical and conceptual illusions rooted in egocentricity.

The sun does not set or rise; it does not move around the earth. Instead, our planet spins away from the sunlight, creating the illusion of the sun sinking beneath our horizon. Then, in the morning, the inability to perceive earth’s movement makes our spin towards the sun seem like the star is rising from below us.

Humans have a habit of defining the environment from our point of view. We do this to make sense of the world, to provide a comforting sense of stability, and to bring personal meaning to our experiences by creating conditions of thought which promote a sense of purpose, importance, and necessity for our existence.

While the ability to conceptualize is an essential cognitive trait, we can easily become trapped by ideas we impose on the universe. There are no sunrises, sunsets; no half or quarter moons. The moon is always full, whether or not we can see its entirety. What is “up” for someone on one side of the planet, is “down” for someone on the opposite end of the globe. These ideas are mere concoctions of an animal attempting to place itself at the conceptual center of something bigger than its current understanding.

When we let go of our need of self-importance, we begin to experience the environment from a universal point of view. As our current belief systems break down, we create a space which can allow for a more meaningful connection with reality and a deeper understanding of self.

For many, letting go of personal beliefs creates a sense of discomfort and worry that moving away from ignorance somehow minimizes human purpose and importance. But the truth is we are not just connected to the universe; we are a part of it. We are not a species trying to become aware of our environment; we are the universe becoming self-aware.

Michael Ken