Saolré: The Cycle of Life

As I prepare for my trip to beautiful, mythical Ireland in a few months, I am excited about visiting Newgrange (Gaelic sí an bhrú), which is a prehistoric 6,000 year old megalithic in County Meath. What is unique about this monument is that during the Winter Solstice, the sun rises over Boyne Valley and the beams of light strike into the passage chamber. It has been suggested that it was designed to observe solar and lunar cycles as well as that of Venus, but the attachment to astronomical and calendrical cycles with ancient mythological lore is clear, such as Aengus and Caer (I will be writing more about Irish myths and legends at a later date). What is more obvious is the understanding of the importance of cycles that exist in nature and our universe.

Everything in the universe has a life cycle, where nature destroys and renews itself cyclically. The cycles in nature are fundamentally based on science, unlike ideas found in the Eternal Recurrence theory that explains a hypothetical account of a finite number of states repeating within an infinite amount of time. As said by Nietzsche:

What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more.”

Stars are made from a fusion between two hot and light gases – hydrogen and helium – whereby in the core the former burns into helium and gradually begins to form heavier elements such as carbon.[2] Eventually, our sun – considered a yellow dwarf – will become an inert white dwarf but will continue to emit light as it will fall below the main sequence and it emits light as the temperature is still hot due to the presence of nuclear fuels until depleted, becoming black dwarf.

Depending on the mass of the star, once hydrogen has been depleted the core will begin to contract [the helium is displaced and the outer surface begins to expand due to the thermal pressure and this contraction loses elements or materials] while the surface expands, leading them to either become supernova or a planetary nebula [the remnants of a supernova] though there are other types of nebulae such as protoplanetary that is causally a result of stars shedding or detaching from the surface.[3] Stars are also born in nebulas. The cycle eventually moves towards – as mentioned – white dwarfs, but also neutron stars where protons and electrons collide to form neutrons from the collapsed core of the star.

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A black hole, which is formed when matter is squeezed into a very dense space as a result of the stars’ supernova where the force of gravity is so great that it, collapses into itself. And yet, it is from a black hole that stars are born, driving the galaxy into continuity.[4]

Life is only possible by the light and heat emitted by stars, our very own sun a g-type main-sequence star with a temperature between 5,000 – 6,000K.[5] We can see stars such as Bellatrix with our naked eyes despite its distance of 244.6 light years[6] because it is 3.16 times bigger than our own sun with a radius of almost 2,200,940.06km.[7] All the stars will collapse and form into new ones and when our sun dies, our planet – which is pulled by the gravity of the sun – will ultimately float aimlessly into space until captured by the gravity of another star and be renewed once more.

The cycle of our very own seasons is continuously rounded and renews every six months due to our perfectly precise location in orbit around the sun along with our moon orbiting around earth. The celestial sphere is an imaginary radius with earth fixed at its centre (since the earth’s position or axis remains fixed) and earths equator is aligned with the celestial equator, as are both the north and south celestial poles. Since the rotational tilt of the earth that sits at precisely 23.5° and its rotational axis around the sun, the ecliptic plane – which is the path of the sun in this sphere – as it travels and rotates the northern and southern hemispheres are doused with either more or less sunlight.[8]

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You can see this movement or rotation when the sun rises in the morning or sets in the evening, or as the stars move when gazing at night. The earths circular orbit around the sun and distant stars is the sidereal period, a sidereal day or for a star to reach the same point is 23.56 hours and they rise earlier each night [up to four minutes] as the earth rotates around the orbit.[9] Equinoxes are the rotation when the ecliptic touches the equatorial plane, and a summer solstice contains the most amount of daylight while the winter solstice contains the least or shortest amount.

Everything in nature is a cycle. Everything is born and then dies in perfect harmony and yet, as humans with consciousness we seem to be breaking the natural laws that is now causing an imbalance to this nature. Is consciousness unnatural?

Hegelian cosmology explains that reality “is composed of a plurality of finite persons”[10] inclusive of ourselves; being a finite property, our lives are finite and ultimately determined, however rather than analysing the individual components or properties that make our lives, the objects and properties become the tools that enable consciousness, allowing us to transcend and become aware of our personhood as being part of a greater ‘whole’ which, to Hegel, is a supreme Being; that we are a part of God.[11] since God has no contingent parts.

There is a temporal anomaly where as conscious humans we become capable of destruction, but we can also learn to improve and so the distinction here is moral consciousness, an ability to love. Our nature is love. When I view myself as part of a sum of all my experiences, there is no longer a temporal domain but rather I exist as part of a whole. I become immersed in this natural cycle, begin to see the importance of love to our children and the future.

The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life.

 

 

[2] John R. Gribbin, The death of the Sun, Delacorte Press (1980) 180
[3] John Bally, Bo Reipurth, The Birth of Stars and Planets, Cambridge University Press (2006) 181
[4] http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2009/12/new-discovery-supermassive-black-holes-create-their-own-galaxies.html
[5] Gunter Faure, Teresa M. Mensing, Introduction to Planetary Science: The Geological Perspective, Springer Science & Business Media (2007) 461
[6] http://www.astronomyenthusiasts.com/constellations/
[7] http://astropixels.com/stars/brightstars.html
[8] William Millar, The Amateur Astronomer’s Introduction to the Celestial Sphere, Cambridge University Press (2006)
[9] Ibid.
[10] Jacob Gould Schurman, James Edwin Creighton, Frank Thilly, Gustavus Watts Cunningham, The Philosophical Review, Cornell University Press, Volume 12 (1903) p 189
[11] M.J. Inwood, Hegel: Arguments Philosophers, Routledge (2013) 202

Image courtesy of Nigel Borrington, 2016