One of the most humbling discoveries in human history happened in the last 20 years, yet it’s hardly known.
In 1996 the Hubble Telescope fixed on a spot near the Big Dipper in which there was nothing. A tiny spot in the heavens equivalent to the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length, where nothing ever had been recorded. Nothing was there, just a deep dark hole.
For ten days they left the lens to the Hubble camera open focused on that speck of nothingness, and then they checked the film.
And were amazed.
They recovered specks of light that had taken billions of years to reach our solar system. Three thousand new galaxies… which represented hundreds of billions of stars, like our sun.
Out of what we had previously considered an empty part of our universe.
So our astronomers in 2004 went to another empty spot in the heavens and kept the Hubble eye on that tiny, tiny spot for 11 days… And found more than ten thousand galaxies composed of incalculable billions of stars like our own.
The speed of light is 186,000 miles a second. Some of the light reflections coming from this area, that the scientist called the ultra-deep field, took 47 billion light years to reach the Hubble. Get a pretty big calculator to do the math on that distance. A light year’s a lot, unlike a light beer which isn’t.
If you think about this for a minute, or go outside at night and just look up, you have to be awed with our own mortal insignificance.
The universe above us – around us – is all more than we can imagine. And where does it end… and listen to me, as humans to understand the heavens we have to know where it ends… we have no frame of reference for anything that does not end. I don’t. Other than the neighbor’s barking dog.
If we start with this unimaginable thought that if there is no end to the universe, we had no idea exactly how small we are in comparison.
But I’ll tell you this, our individual lives aren’t much when compared with the universe. So tiny there are no words for how small. None of us. Not one person who has ever lived on planet earth is very significant. Compared to all that’s out there.
That said, two computer scientist recently took a look at the “big” people alive today and those in our history books. And they ranked them as to the footsteps they’ve made in time. One to 400,000 or so of the most influential people to have ever lived.
I remember reading way back years and years ago a book that also took a look at the most important people in history. So I googled the net and found the book to be Michael H. Hart’s The 100: A ranking of the most influential Persons in History. Published in 1978.
And another book by the same author updated in 2000.
So I took the 100 top people in the list generated by Steven Skiena and Charles B. Ward in their recent book Who’s Bigger? and the people from Hart’s separate 1978 and 2000 lists, to checky check. Pretty easy cut and paste operation. Ended with something like 170 people in the three combined lists.
In each ranking the authors cite dozens and dozens of authorities they consulted in their research. So it isn’t just the combined ranking of 3 men, but a multitude of knowledgeable contributors and judges.
That comparison is below.
You know what it shows? Only 5 women made the list, and three were British Queens who didn’t do much themselves. It was the British people who surged forward in developing a civilized society during their reigns. The other two were 1) Joan of Arc, who starting hearing voices when she was something like 12 years old that told her to put on boy pants and go fight the British, which got her burned at the stake when she was 19 years old. And 2) Marie Curie who worked with two other guys as a scientist.
That’s it. 3 Queens, a religious fanatic and one scientist.
Folks from sub-Sahara Africa? Zero.
Folks from south of the border? One, Simon Bolivar.
Athletes and actors? Zero.
More than 99% of the folks on all three lists were educated, hard working men of perception and intelligence… and of European and Asian extraction. Biologists, Physicists, Inventors, Explorers, Statesmen, Theologists, Conquistadores, Writers, Philosophers.
Plus Jesus and Mohammad who belong in a special category.
As does Elvis and George W. Bush. Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain.
Plus a few Indian mystics.
And Zoroaster… who as it turns out, was the most ancient man on Hart’s lists. One of the several people I had never heard of before, he turned out to be one of the most interesting.
He lived something like 10,000 years ago and said that life was a struggle between truth and lies… and that ultimately man had to take responsibility for his own actions.
Sounds reasonable. 10,000 years thinking haven’t changed much… we’re as concerned now with our BMWs as Zoroaster was with his camels… and although we’re warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, probably live longer, the ability of our brains to think and reason hasn’t changed.
Maybe the concept of human morality – creating and articulating standards for a good life – starts with Zoroaster. That’s why he’s on the list.
Here’s my bigger point though. With all the talk about forced ”diversity” nowadays, making way for the ladies and the minorities, let us understand it sure is a radical change in the insignificant history of significant mankind here.
What caused this change, you reckon? Who or what is driving this new “make way” thing? And what will be the consequences?
Not that it matters, you understand.
Last, but maybe first is Zoroaster...The oldest person on this All Star list. He started the idea of blending congative thinking with our imagination to improve man's lot on earth. He said the purpose of humankind was to sustain aša. This occurs through active participation in life and the exercise of constructive thoughts, words and deeds. Zoroaster emphasized the freedom of the individual to choose right or wrong and that man is individually responsible for his own deeds. This personal choice to accept aša or arta (the divine order), and shun druj (ignorance and chaos) is one’s own decision and is not dictated by fate. For Zoroaster, by thinking good thoughts, saying good words, and doing good deeds (e.g. assisting the less fortunate) we increase this divine force aša or arta in the world and in ourselves, celebrate the divine order, and we come a step closer on the everlasting road to being one with the Creator.
Now let’s say all these folks were gathered in your local high school gym and that language wasn’t a problem, and you were let loose in the crowd, who would you want to meet and hang out with?
I don’t know about you, but me, I’d want to talk with Jesus a little bit, and go tell Muhammad to lighten up some – there’s no evidence whatsoever that life’s supposed to be that serious. And I’d like to hear what Edward de Vere had to say to Shakespeare. And I’d tell Robert E. Lee, “Don’t go to Gettysburg.” And I’d like a few minutes to judge just how fucking crazy Hilter was, and who among these people he’s comfortable with.
Then I’d like to get Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde and Abe Lincoln and Ben Franklin and Elvis off to the side, up in the bleachers, maybe with George W. Bush and Ron Reagan – Zoroaster if we find he has a sense of humor – and look at all those people hanging around the punch bowl on the gym floor.
Wonder what’s to be said about the mix?
Like, who would they probably elect as their leader? Who is the most articulate? Who has the most people skills? How many are gay? Are friendly? Arrogant? Personable? Over rated? What would any have to say about the world we live in today? What would they be most amazed with? The airplane? iphone? Democracy? Who among them would understand ”affirmative action?” What would they say about the enormous difference in US leadership and governance from Obama to Trump?
Not that it really matters.