Today we wanted to share with you a thought-provoking essay written by Marcelo Freire. He shares his beautiful insights on our planet, the sun, the global community, and opening our minds and hearts to our unlimited potential.
After a long day of grant writing — dealing with rejection, success, social media stress, meltdowns, terrorizing “viral” videos, humans killing each other, scary news (truthful and manipulated news as well), endless discussions of data versus belief, family disruptions, listening to patronizing humans in power, strategies to keep enslaving peoples of the world, building walls nonsense, lies… — I, a scientist, human, and free thinker, find myself looking for a place of reflection. A place of quietness. A place that involves a more profound interaction with this planet. Often in nature is where I find this type of mental rescue. A quiet spot for me in San Diego North County is the paradisiac Swami beach. I want to share with you thoughts that came through my mind while observing this sunset.
Sunset usually is what I look for to calm the vibes. Don’t take me wrong, I love sunrises too, and I am a punctual early riser. But there is something special and mesmerizing about sunsets, that draws me into it. I don’t’ know all the reasons for this attraction, but I find myself reinspired when watching it. It reminds me of a perspective that is beyond ourselves and our beliefs. It reminds me of a galactic perspective of life!
The first thought that came through my mind was: At the center of the Solar System, a perfect sphere of hot plasma — The Sun — floats in space. My photo, the evidence for this statement, shows the Sun from the space and me standing on Earth. Literally a “ball” of flames providing essential rays fo energy while the planet Earth moves around it, creating the perception of a sunset ( not I am not taking drugs). Without the magnetic field, gravity, heat, and light provided by the Sun, this planet would be lifeless, a ball of ice. Because of the Sun, we think about day and night, we count weeks, we have a sense of time, we have the notion of cycles, we have a calendar system- in fact multiple calendar systems ;). The sun heat warms the seas, stirs the atmosphere, and life on Earth is only feasible because of the Sun. Sunlight provides enough energy and oxygen to growing plants which then impact diversity ecosystems and biology.
Since I am a scientist and clinician dealing with human health, it was obvious that thoughts populating my brain would be related to the biological actions of the Sun. From the space to our planet, then to our soils, to our oceans, to our plants, to our animals, to our cells, to our molecules, to our DNA, to our atoms, sunlight has quite an impact. Hippocrates, who was considered the father of medicine by other fellow humans, reflected on the sunlight and populational health. He suggested orienting cities towards the sun to prevent emergence of diseases. Throughout history, sunlight has been worshiped for its health providing properties. For example, the skin(the largest body organ) when exposed to limited amounts of ultraviolet B (UVB), manufactures its own vitamin. Vitamin D (Vit D), for example, is essential for body functions including bone metabolism. Vit D impacts cells that form bone and also cells the resorb bone tissue to work in balance, and by regulating hormones such as parathyroid hormone calcium metabolism is controlled. In summary, Vit D3 is essential for good osteo-metabolism. I was just amazed that from the space to my body, and to the molecules. I won’t go on and on with the details of the scientific reactions. But through biochemical transformations, cholesterol in the skin is converted to produce vitamin D3. This property is also key for the development of immune cells, a process usually started in the bone marrow; which in turn allows the immune cells to fight infections, such as viral infections e.g.: Flu, COVID19. Our entire system is regulated by the sun cycle.
Yes, the Sun is powerful! Such power can also be damaging. Excessive sun exposure is quite detrimental to biology and in fact can lead to burns, dehydration, immunosuppression… At the molecular level, it can damage DNA in such a permanent way, and it even promotes mutations which in turn develop deadly forms of cancers. Since I have a laboratory specialized in inflammation, excessive exposure to solar radiation can activate inflammatory signals that promote damage to our bodily physiology. The cells that are the first responders go weary. But, let’s not get lost in the technicalities right now. I want to circle back on the thoughts coming through that day, while I was watching the sunset. The Sun is far far away (approximately 150 million kilometers from Earth) sending energy, light, and heat to multiple areas of our solar system, and also to our planet, and also to our bodies. Our ecosystem chain is adapted in such a way that it is regulated by the circadian rhythm. Thus, sunrise and sunset have its own role.
Quite around the time when the Sun hit the ocean line and the waves and surfers became visible, I started to think about societal problems that for generations have been hunting humanity. The idea of possession, the notion of owning territories, the egocentric feeling for our lands, our states, our nations, the entitlement has just been terrible for humans. Ok, let’s remind ourselves again of this spacial perspective. Our planet Earth is floating in space and circling around the Sun (which helps us thrive), and our planet is one out billions of planets that compose the Milky Way Galaxy. Now you want to talk with me about the lines that dived your city? Do you want to discuss a passport that is made out of papers that help us pass through mental borders of insecurity? We need to look out to space and learn further. The Hubble telescope (which I am a fan of) provides images and data estimating that billions of galaxies surround the Milky Way, and each of these galaxies have their own billions of planets.
Even with that knowledge, we as humans want to make our possessions precious, we want to fight about our languages, discuss our differences in culture, fight for our religious beliefs, kill each other due to our gender decisions, or color differences, I could go further… the love of money, cars, material things… ( I am also human and have a love book, notebooks, and sunglasses). But the idea that we will protect our lands so others will suffer. The notion that we are not united as a planet is disturbing. We are allowing children from this same planet to die of hunger ( such as in Yemen), right now as I write this, while others ( e.g.: U.S.A.) are dying from obesity due to a culture of overabundance in developing countries. I know it is baffling! And can be stressful to even think about all this in one sitting. But, let me ask my fellow humans one thing.
Can we expand our minds to a new perspective that does not follow an egocentric terroristisc small-minded system that only destroys our bodies, our species, and our planet?
As the sun was mid-way through the ocean, this question came to mind: Can we do it better? We definitely need a new perspective that takes in consideration our planet as one. A way of preserving biodiversity. A way that does not limit our own small lands views. We need leaders thinking of strategies to colonize other planets, and how can humans together coexist with other species. Are you or someone that you know feeling territorial about your country or city, or house? Or feeling your religion should dominate, perhaps your dogma is better than mine? Let’s ask them to consider other perspectives. Have you thought about the perspective of the entire planet as one system? Have you considered the perspective that you are part of a large universe? Can we share resources among other humans from different regions? Can we share resources with our animals? Can we ever stop our egocentric manners? I know, we can do better. But, we need to think about these fundamental concepts and change the ways of thinking and living.
When I personally started to change my “iLife” perspective to a more galactic perspective, it first opened the doors for imagination. Just after, it also helped me stay away from the small tiny perspective of possessions from the planet Earth to something “grander” than just me. When they ask me where are you from or say go back to your country, I answer: “I am a citizen of the planet Earth and I am a resident of this Galaxy”. I am part of a universe that offers grand opportunities. Just like the opportunity to enjoy the sunset and to observe the planet moving around the Sun. One can spend some time — out of the noise — to open his or her perspective. A mindset that places humans in the context of this planet, a perspective that places this planet in the context of the solar system. A thought process hat accounts for the galaxy we are in. A perspective that is inspired by the future of the species in the context of the universe. I am a believer that we can do better for humanity than now and it is time to do it better than what we have done.
As the sunsetted into that beautiful horizon, my mind calmed and became more clear. From the sands of Swami Beach, I felt the need to write about this process of opening our minds and hearts to our unlimited potential. My ultimate goal to walk you through these thoughts and emotions was to share what came to mind during that sunset. With the hopes that this essay makes you think how interconnected we are, and how a simple example such as the Sun connects us through light, heat, energy, biology, and life. We can use the gift of our cognitive capacity to reflect further and change our views of how to live, values, and be on the right side of the history of humanity. Maybe the Moon for you, perhaps another constellation or even another planet. Be open to the perspective from the galaxies, and as one planetary community let’s think of how can we unite humanity to expand life here and elsewhere!
— Essay by Marcelo Freire, written for Medium