“During liberation in a ruined Manila, I was 14 years old. I enjoyed the liberation years because there were lenses and eyepieces selling for only a few pesos on Evangelista St., Quiapo. Out of them I was able to make my own (1) telescope and (2) microscope. I never owned (and still do not own) a telescope or microscope. Necessity is the mother of invention. So I invented MY OWN…
“Like Galileo, I peered through my 2-meter long telescope hanging from the ceiling and saw Jupiter as a disc with ‘brilliantes’ moving around the planet like fireflies. It was the sight that gave Galileo the insight about the worlds out there and the world he, and we stand on.
“I found a way to learn about reality, uncertainty, incompleteness, relativity – from Godel, Neils Bohr, Albert (that where my father got my name?) Einstein to George Gamow, Shapely, Asimov, Clarke (the 2 popularizers), Carl Sagan, Hawkings, Penrose and the rest. When my classmates were reading comics, I was reading the first postwar books on Einstein and his relatives (wife, daughter, ‘illegitimates’), and his theory (ies) of Relativity.
“To man in the time of Copernicus and of earlier and later scientists, the world was flat for all purposes, as suggested by the Church or accepted by it. Maps at the time showed the world as a flat expanse of ocean(s) and seas. Beyond the edge of that mariner's paper map, where ships are shown falling off the edge as on Niagara Falls, the WORLD, WAS, FLAT.
“Instead Galileo the dissenter, having just peeked through his telescope, said no, the earth was a sphere of ocean (water) and earth (rocks or cold magma). For that time THE, WORLD, WAS, SPHERICAL.
“Until we sent Man (first his instruments, then his body) out of the steady pull of gravity into outer space, the earth only was as big or as round as man's vision of it.
“Man's world for eons, millennia, was as big (or as far) as his footsteps or his horse or his carriage could go.
“Man's boat, car, ship, airplane and Concorde made his world bigger. Then Man sent the Voyager rockets to outer space and other outer-space satellites. The more and bigger the earth became.
“Man started sending out radio signals and slowly or quickly the world, the universe, and the cosmos increased with every big step made by Neil Armstrong's actual trip to the moon, Carl Sagan's recording of evidence of life on earth went to the reaches of the ‘farthest throw ever made’ from earth. (It is still going out, the longest cruise to nowhere.)
“Man's reach started to exceed his arm's length and his eye's ken – the telegraph, the telephone, the edges of the ever expanding Internet's www territory… 'Tis right, the universe or cosmos is as big as the sense of sight can make it, the extent of his radio signals, his rockets and radio signals, can reach…”
And here we reach the edges of what religions call “oneness.” Hindus and animists see it everywhere in Nature. Christians call it God’s heaven, Muslims Allah’s paradise. The Buddha taught us to sit still and find its inner kingdom – like Sufi mystics, Christian contemplatives and the tribal shamans who know heaven is here, right now, with all its pain and contradiction, to those who see.
All roads lead no longer to Rome but to a center in a world with many centers, until humans look upward beyond the rockets and inward beyond the visible. And almost always now, there’s a Filipino witnessing it all in a corner somewhere close – marveling and recognizing, crying out, recording and unreeling memories in celebration.
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