Humans are children of heavens, literally. Heaven is the sky above or the vast space around the earth. And this solar system with the sun, earth and other members of the family came into being 4.6 billion years ago through a supernova explosion. All the materials found in our body were born in that explosion. So, humans are literally a handful of star-dust. All other lives on the earth are also handfuls of the same thing, star-dust, born in the same explosion in the heaven.
So we are part of the design of the heavens. And this truth is very much integrated in our perception and feelings. Humans since long ago have been very much interested in the sky overhead as is found also in nursery rhymes: Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are! This wondering by our ancestors gradually led to the unraveling of the mysteries of the stars and other heavenly bodies. Our ancestors gathered their knowledge of heavens not only because of curiosity, but also for their worldly needs of survival such as irrigating fields and growing crops. Human life is very, very deeply connected with the motion of heavenly bodies.
Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen writes (posted in Sūratu'l-Wāqi'ah): 'The stars have always been important for human beings because there has always been a relationship between human beings and stars. The minimum of this relationship has been that human beings can determine directions through the stars. The following verse points to this fact, saying: "And (other) way-marks, and they (people) find their way by the stars" (An-Nahl 16:16).'
Awareness about this connection also led to the overestimation of the influence of heavenly bodies on human lives and eventual growth of astrology, a pseudoscience that branched off from astronomy. But the truth is that the sky overhead and the things in that realm really have a deep connection with life on earth. Overall, people are not wrong in assuming that connection in their beliefs, right or wrong.
Human life is so much connected with the bodies in the sky that we have named our days of the week after the stars, planets and gods of that other world. Our Robi (Sun), Shom (Moon), Mongol (Mars), Budh (Mercury), Brihospoti (Jupiter), Shukro (Venus), Shoni (Saturn) denote the members of the solar family. In English, 'month' and 'Mo(o)nday' both have originated from the word Moon, as it is also in Bengali for the words 'mash' and 'shom', both of which point to the moon. By drinking some shomrasa (moon-juice), a person can turn lunatic (giddy). Faces of our dears are always as beautiful as the moon in our eyes.
Days in the English week are as well named after the Sun (Sunday), the Moon (Monday) and the sky gods. About this, American astrophysicist Carl Sagan has written in his book 'Pale Blue Dot: A vision of the human future in space', "In all Romance languages, such as French, Spanish, and Italian, the connection is still more obvious, because they all derive from ancient Latin, in which the days of the week were named (in order beginning with Sunday) after the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn." These are exactly like the days in the Bengali week.
Gods of many religions are denizens of the sky. Holy books of the world's big religions are thought to have come down from the heavens, so they are books of the heavens. Planets, stars and the sky are so much integrated with lives on the earth that we almost forget to notice it. Physically, humans are chained to the earth, but mentally we are connected to the vast unknown space surrounding us. Humans, however, have been able to break this chain through first human landing on the moon on July 20, 1969.
Since the year of 1969, humans have become a species that has successfully stepped out of the earth. Now their eyes are on the red planet, Mars. It will be another milestone in the journey of Homo sapiens towards an interstellar intelligent being. Time has come for us humans to think with a new perspective that has the potential of transcending us to a new citizen of the space.
Time is ripe for Homo sapiens to overcome narrow tribalism, communalism (shamprodaikota), fanaticism, blind nationalism and all sorts of other chains keeping us bound to the pole of base animality. This binding to our base nature has prevented us from becoming truly great in humanity characterized by love, compassion, equity, cooperation, collectivism, empathy, fairness to all and other virtues.
Humans had the dream of scaling the heavens since they first became conscious of their potentiality and influence. These dreams are deep in their myths, poetries, paintings and other cultural expressions. As there is in the epic of Gilgamesh (Third Millennium BC), "Who, my friend, can scale heaven?" or the hymn for a dead Pharaoh (Egypt, 2600 BC) says, "The stairs of the sky are let down for him that he may ascend thereon to heaven. O gods, put your arms under the king: raise him, lift him to the sky. To the sky! To the sky!" (Sagan, Pale Blue Dot)
All the past human dreams have been coming true including the desire of ascending to the sky. All this depends on how much humans are capable of making this earth a place of happiness instead of sorrows, a place of love instead of hatred and a place of brotherhood for all instead of enmity. Humans who are children of star-dust must not end up as nasty dirt and a villain, but a heroic friend of nature and a deserving denizen of heavens. Our first duty is to our original home, this earth, to make it a beautifullest place in the universe.
Let us finish this article by referring to other Quranic words in Sura Al-Wāqi'ah (56), "I swear by the shelters of the stars-a mighty oath, if you but knew it."
The writer is Editor, Biggan O Sangskriti.
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