Despite what I wrote back on January 1st, tonight will be the only true blue moon this year. Science is fascinating to me in that it never takes anything today as absolutely true, only a stepping stone to what is likely more true tomorrow. It’s in a constant state of refinement and understanding.
Take for instance our dearly dead friends Ptolemy and Copernicus. You may remember that Ptolemy once proclaimed that the planets and sun all revolved around the earth. The difficulty with this easily accepted idea was that there were a lot of things that didn’t quite add up and required very complicated explanations on how this all worked.
It took 1500 years or so before Nicolaus Copernicus offered the radical notion that maybe the sun was at the center of our solar system. Things made sense mathematically; problems that couldn’t be explained by the old system now magically fit. But there was one big problem that couldn’t be resolved. In this new model:
The difficulty was not scientific but human. In order for truth to be accepted people had to believe they weren’t the center of everything and were actually much smaller than they had thought. As Hugh MacLeod once said, “Good ideas alter the power balance in relationships, that is why good ideas are always initially resisted.”
So too are my struggles. I can look squarely into the eyes of a lot of my problems and recognize that they were not possible to solve until I realized my location. In order for my truths to be accepted I had to recognize that I was not the center of even my own universe.
But here’s the cool part about this simple to think yet difficult to enact concept – not only did it help solve a lot of my problems, it opened up a whole new world of possibilities and thinking that changed the way I looked at everything.
My wife and I were walking along the beach of Amelia Island this summer. While I was looking up at the birds overhead I noticed that she was diligently focused on the sand. When asked what she was doing she explained she was looking for shark’s teeth.
Cool, I’d like to try that.
After a few minutes of this joint excursion she proudly exclaimed “Found one.” I was so excited for her. I couldn’t wait until my turn. A little time passed and I heard “Found another one” followed soon by “Here’s one.” Current score – Beth 3, Joe 0.
Wow, I suck at this. I thought this was supposed to be fun. Why am I so bad? Do I need to see an eye doctor? Am I missing an important gene? Me, Me, Me, Me.
Then I looked up and saw this great big smile on Beth’s face. She was in her element. She had the sound of the waves, the smell of the ocean, the warmth of the sun and a handful of shark’s teeth. How could my thoughts have ever so tightly wound around me?
It was when I finally took myself out of the center of my universe that I was most able to freely move from my limiting thoughts. The neat thing about being a planet and not the sun is that I was now in motion. At the center I could just sit an observe as everything revolved around me. By removing myself from the center I have in essence liberated myself from a static life and static thoughts.
I would like to tell you that it was at that moment of self discovery that I looked down and instantly found my first shark tooth. That only happens in the movies (and requires a Nick Drake soundtrack.) It wasn’t until later the next day that I was given the gift of discovery and it was a beauty – a very large and ancient tooth. For a moment everyone was excited as I was.
That excitement only lasted for a short while as I saw my wife stroll in with one of her own.
This time there was no longer a scorecard. There was nothing but an incredible shared excitement that could come from her smile being the momentary center of my universe. I was no longer happy for her, I was genuinely happy with her and, to misapply Robert Frost, “that has made all the difference.”
I would love to tell you that I have mastered this very simple concept. I haven’t. I still have pity parties where I am locked in as the spindle of my gyroscope. I still get jealous when a peer of mine gets a promotion and I don’t. The difference is that I now recognize how simple it is to improve my situation by removing myself from the center and the great freedom that comes from being in motion.
You see, just like science I too am in a constant state of refinement and understanding.
What are the signs you look for tell if you are in the right place in your universe?