A network of eight ground-based telescopes around the world have composed an image of a black hole in a galaxy called M87. The object is massive (it weighs as much as 4 million suns), and far, far away (55 million light-years from us). It looks a little like the flame that opens Terrence Malik's Tree of Life (I wish this was not so, because I can't stand that film and its bogus metaphysics). It is amazing there is a universe to begin with. It's even more amazing that matter can come alive and kick it. But most amazing of all is the existence of a very young animal that has re-purposed an organ that evolved to solve an endless number of earthly problems for ends that have absolutely no evolutionary value.
Seeing a black hole will not get you laid or help you find food. But maybe this is the deepest possible meaning of life. Not hunting and gathering but, as the greatest philosopher of the 20th century, Alfred North Whitehead, put it: "a bid for freedom." There's no food or fucking in the picture of the black hole. But there is a profound feeling of freedom. Your mind is here, but it has been there. Been across vast and empty space and connected with an object that, despite its monstrously enormous size, can still fit in the mind.
From Science News:
The much-anticipated big reveal of the image “lives up to the hype, that’s for sure," says Yale University astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan, who is not on the EHT team. "It really brings home how fortunate we are as a species at this particular time, with the capacity of the human mind to comprehend the universe, to have built all the science and technology to make it happen."
Yes, we happen to be here now. But we are not old. The horseshoe crab, which is not a really a crab but an aquatic spider, has been around for about a half-billion years. Dinosaurs knew them. Stepped on them. They are still around, confounding even poets. Our type of ape has seen the rise and fall of the sun for only some 250,000 years. We are radically new—a dazzling, baffling, self-bewitched bid for freedom. Will we exit as fast as we entered this twittering world? But then again, in the space of a few hundred years, we have seen so much. Maybe that's the best a mind, and therefore evolution, can do. See many things brilliantly, but, alas, only briefly ("The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long—and you have burned so very, very brightly..."). The horseshoe has lived so long because it keeps things so cold.
Let's part with words Frederich Nietzsche wrote during his period of lucidity:
In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the highest and most mendacious minute of "world history"—yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die.