Stargazing and Humility

Published on
Shreshth Mehra-
4 min read


    One of the biggest blessings in disguise of the pandemic was my new found love for Astronomy. As I sat on my terrace night after night observing the heavens above, I was instilling in me a quality I did not then realize. The very first time I observed the planets, Jupiter and Saturn in their ever lasting magnificence and beauty I thought to myself what makes me feel so special about myself. Let me elaborate the thought process behind this.

    Observing the rings of Saturn with your very own eyes for the first time really allows the splendor and awe of this planet to settle in. I then observed the great red spot on the surface of Jupiter which itself alone is bigger than the earth. I could not help but contemplate my insignificance in front of these planets, not to mention the fact these planets are even more insignificant in front of the size of our galaxy let alone galaxy clusters and then the observable universe. It is at this moment I thought that such beauty and majesty have been endlessly revolving above me not only for my entire life but the entire life of the solar system (4.5 BILLION years) and all I ever had to do was look. Numbers like 4.5 billion years don’t mean anything to us because we don’t have a visceral sense of what they mean. These scales are so large that we possibly can’t wrap our heads around them, so let’s scale things down to a more familiar level. Even on Earth what makes me or you so special? What makes us humans special?

    If you were to say that we humans are the only intelligent species on this planet then depending on how you define intelligence I could prove you wrong. Let’s say if intelligence were the ability to deal with the problems life throws at us, then even plants are highly intelligent. Because they have restricted mobility, they evolved to develop a tool well beyond our capabilities. The tool of biochemistry. Consider this, if you were to stop all the pests from eating your crops you could poison them. However, over time some pests would develop resistance to this poison as a result of evolution. So as an alternatively you could influence the pests in a different way and allow them to be picked off in other ways. This is exactly what plants did. In order to keep certain pests away they developed such high level of intelligence in the field of biochemistry that they can very precisely formulate drugs specific to their pest to keep them away.

    Now if you argue that humans are the only species to use other animals for our own use, you’d be wrong. There is a type of wasp, jewel wasp, that does exactly this. Before its newly hatched larvae is born it enslaves a cockroach by taking control over its neural system with the help of a chemical. The wasp then dictates the cockroach to dig a hole and bury itself inside where the wasp now lets the larvae hatch. When the larvae hatch they then feed on this cockroach to grow before coming out.

    If you think that humans are only ones to have developed advanced communication systems think again. Bees have an intricate way of telling other bees of location of fresh nectar plants using trigonometry and physics. By vibrating their tails at the correct frequency and amplitude they communicate to other bees the direction and distance of these plants. There are plethora of other such instances where animals and other life forms around us prove to be just as intelligent, communicative, social or authoritative as us. So, what then is so special about us as humans? Perhaps the only special thing about us is our very innate need to feel special.

    The quality that I talked about in the very first paragraph is the quality of humility. The recognition of the mundaneness and redundancy of our existence and actions is something that has eased my suffering over the last 2 years. This realization is the shattering of the ego that lives inside all of us. I am at a stage where I realize this but am yet to master this quality and allow it to fill all parts of my life. I hope you’ll be there to join and follow me through this journey of mine and begin yours if you already have not.