I’ve been reading about Neil deGrasse Tyson’s experiences at the Hayden Planetarium and the controversial solar system display that resulted in an international debate on whether or not Pluto is a planet.
With the exception of Tyson, there was little discussion on why we call some things planets and not others. No one was disputing whether Pluto exists, the dispute was whether or not we should label it with the word “planet”.
This boring semantic debate sparked worldwide controversy and renewed the publics interest in astronomy.
The arguments and legislation (yes, legislation) claiming that Pluto is a planet were not only unscientific but completely absurd, irrational, and most interesting of all: emotionally charged.
Wow, all of that over Pluto.
Emotions ran high and ego’s collided, but why would anyone’s ego have a stake in Pluto? If we answer that question, perhaps then we could explain why so many people have such strong feelings about other equally irrational topics.
Let me recap the nearly decade long debate: one day Pluto is a planet and there are nine planets in the solar system, all is good. Over time our knowledge of the solar system increased so profoundly that the belief of “nine planets” is inconsistent with what we now know. Pluto is reclassified.
Pluto is a wonderful example of how people cling irrationally to beliefs despite evidence to the contrary (evidence that gives us a richer and more beautiful view of our universe).
Our ego’s can be dangerous, blinding us to the beauty that awaits discovery. What future discoveries will clash with our current beliefs?
I propose a different foundation of ego. An ego that is not based on any world view, but an ego based on what I call the Bliss of Existence; an open mind and a realization of our connection with all things.
Your ego need not depend on thinking the earth is flat and that we are the center of the universe. Your ego need not depend on an imaginary God that happens to look like an old bearded white man. Your ego does not need to depend on religious beliefs that contradict known science. Your ego does not need to depend on your nationality, nor your social status.
Your ego can depend wholly on the bliss of existence, on the recognition that we are at one participants with and components of a larger cosmic order.
Whether we perceive it scientifically as Neil deGrasse Tyson explains with his “we are star dust” metaphor, or whether we perceive it spiritually (as Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, and Jewish teachings often attempt to convey)– the conclusions are the same and the meaning behind the metaphors is the same.
There was a time when our ego’s were founded in the world view that the earth is flat, lightning is a weapon of Zeus, and Pluto is the ruler of the underworld. An ego based on a static world view is detrimental to human advancement. The unfortunate history of Islamic science, Catholic inquisitions and the evolution/creation debate are clear examples.
If we look back in history we scoff at the views of humans before us, and we admire those individuals that brought about new ways of thinking that reshaped societies. The history of human progress is not owed to any one culture or people– but to the open minded convictions of those brave enough to question the limits of their knowledge.
Whether you are scientist, an athlete, an executive, a doctor, or just some guy or girl … you will be a better scientist, a better athlete, a better executive, and in every way you will have an advantage in anything you do in life — all by separating your ego away from the static world view you were taught in school and replacing it with an open mind and the realization that all things are fundamentally connected.
Can you imagine a world where ideas flow freely without judgment and constraint? Can you imagine the progress, the advances not just in science and medicine, but of culture and art?
Such a world would not be free of problems, but imagine the unity of all people to overcome and survive those problems.
Imagine that every child, everywhere, was taught to value new ideas and critical thinking.
Perhaps in such a world (in a not so distant future) every person is free to travel, to live, and to work anywhere they have the want and skill– world views come and go as easily as our knowledge of the universe expands, and Pluto is still not a planet.