Can you tell without looking at a reference point or without feeling any force due to acceleration that you are moving? The answer to this question leads to one of the fundamental premises of the Theory of Relativity. Since it is not possible to tell the difference between being stationary and being in a constant (i.e. non-accelerating) motion, they are considered as equivalent. The only motion that is not equivalent to halting is an accelerated motion. When we look at the universe, we observe that all heavenly objects are in a state of accelerated motion. It is this ever-changing motion that leads to the universe that is full of beauty and order. In beauty and order within ourselves, we can emulate the accelerated motion of the universe; but what does it mean to accelerate continuously based on the premise that the universe is a major human,1 and the human is a minor universe,2 in order to achieve as a human being?
When we look at our bodies, we see that everything is taken care of already: respiratory systems, nervous systems, and all others work without our control. It is as if we dwell in a palace where everything is already optimized and automated for our living conditions.3 Therefore, being the resident of this palace, the ego is responsible for using these given faculties in a way to keep harmony between inside and outside. This tells us that it is the ego that must emulate the concept of “accelerated motion.” If we rephrase this concept, we can say that it is the ego that must undergo a continuous change in order to achieve beauty and order inside and establish harmony between inside and outside. Considering that our knowledge of ourselves and of the world around us is limited, how can we educate our egos to achieve this harmony? Let’s make a journey into the major human to answer the question concerning the minor universe.
We see that everything in the universe changes, and nothing remains unchanged. Slow or fast, nature is in a continuous motion and change. Thus nature is never the same twice. Interestingly, within this continuous change, we see periodicities. Although things are never the same on a small scale, we see repeating epochs on a larger scale, such as the alternation of day and night, the cycle of the seasons, and the birth-growth-death period in all living things.
We also observe that the great cycles of change that take place in the universe conceive a criterion or a point around which they rotate. For example, the planets assume the sun as their axis of rotation; the stars take the galaxy center as their axis of rotation.
When we look at nature, we see that there is solidarity between the living and non-living things through which non-living ones become sustenance for the living ones. We also see solidarity among living things4 to sustain each others’ existence on Earth so that none of the species leave the stage.
Another fact that catches the eye is multi-tasking in nature. For example, we see air as a conductor of light, sound and heat; we see it entering our lungs and participating in our bodily reactions. Again the same air goes into other living things and functions in those systems in harmony. Soil is another example. We see the soil as a nest for all kinds of seeds, which function differently from each other; and the same soil is used for the construction of the bodies of living things and even their homes.
In order to have the beauty and the order of the major universe reflected on the minor one, i.e. human, the change and periodicity, the assumption of a criterion (an axis of rotation), the solidarity, and the multi-tasking must be represented in the human ego, which is responsible for the body it is dwelling in.
In our daily lives, we take on different roles depending on our positions. A successful person is the one who recognizes the requirements of each of these roles and, therefore, is able to adjust himself according to these requirements. A person who is a boss at work is not supposed to act like a boss at home. Either a parent role or the spouse role must be recalled. However, the following two mechanisms may prevent such a role shift: the resistance of the ego to change (inertia) and the strong desire of ego to become the axis of rotation for its surroundings.
Axis of rotation
Some of our attitudes imply rejection of any ties to a Supreme Power. This leads to a sub-conscious assumption by which we consider ourselves as the axis of rotation for everything and everybody else. However, the universe is not created according to our selfish comfort; and other people also have their own ego which tempts them to the same sub-conscious assumption by which they may consider themselves as the axis of rotation. It is obvious that in a family or in a society where everybody wants to be the axis of rotation, conflicts will arise, and soon the unity will collapse. A dynamic ego, on the other hand, would recognize a Supreme Power and try to change according to the manners described by Him. Recognition of the Supreme Power also requires introspection and self-criticism according to the criteria explained by that Power. As a result of this introspection and self-criticism, a dynamic ego will apologize for its transgressions, leading to self-change.
Sometimes it is possible to gain by losing
The solidarity embedded in nature represents itself in two main ways. One involves directly helping each other for survival, such as between a mother and her children. The other is by self-sacrificing for others’ survival, such as plants becoming food for animals, and animals becoming food for plants in a cyclical manner, etc. Based on these two solidarities, life on Earth has continued for thousands of years. Similarly, in a healthy relationship, people not only help each other but also self-sacrifice for others. If any of the members of this relationship tries to fix himself/herself as the center and incessantly ask for sacrifice from the other, the relationship collapses sooner or later. An example of such a collapse is the current state of the environment. The excessive and irresponsible actions of human beings towards nature in the recent centuries has led to human comfort at the expense of the strength of life on Earth.
The superheroes: soil, water, fire, air
In terms of multi-tasking, we observe in nature superheroes that do everything but do not get credit: soil, water, fire, air. None of these has an ego. They do not have a conscious mind, either. Somehow, they are working everywhere we see, doing miraculous things. Furthermore, they are obedient to us; we can use them however we want. The coexistence of super-powers and obedience is something that is in complete contradiction to the superhero picture we have in mind.
According to our perception, a superhero can do everything, solve every problem, etc., but most of all, a superhero works alone and has his own rules. Unfortunately, in real life, we hardly observe a superhero that is, say, a good family member or a good teacher who can educate new superheroes. This is because real life and super-powers have opposite requirements: patience vs. speed, self-sacrifice vs. self-realization, giving birth to multitudes vs. remaining as “The Hero.” Without proper education, super-properties will eventually lead to a super-ego that idolizes itself. This type of a character does not make up a healthy personality and is a threat to the survival of the society. From this, it can be deduced that self-improvement and self-realization, if not motivated properly, lead to self-idolization, which is not the way to go for an ego. So, what is the ultimate motive for an ego?
Based on the example of the supers of nature, a suggested statement of the ultimate goal or motive for the ego is being of use as much as, and as best as, possible without gaining credit. However, this statement is not going to satisfy and/or motivate the ego. This is because the ego’s nature requires some “food” for survival. We would not be humans without our egos. So what is the food of the ego? Some people feed their egos with self-satisfaction, which leads to arrogance or pragmatism. Some others choose to take other people’s pleasure as their ego food, which does not work in the long run, since nobody has the power to give all the time without receiving. As a third choice, some people prefer to choose God’s pleasure as a survival for their ego, which looks more promising compared to the other two in terms of self-satisfaction and service to other people.
Challenge in the ego education: Inertia
As human beings, the more we grow, the more we build our own personality/ego and show a sub-conscious resistance to change. This is similar to a train that has already accelerated and which will require a great force to change direction and/or slow down. In another way, it is similar to a piece of brittle solid, like ice, which will break into pieces when hit by a hammer. This solid form of ego is the result of lack of education and sincere love; it eventually becomes a thick, opaque veil in front of the eyes of its carrier, and filters all the warnings coming from outside that point to a need for change.7 So, how are we going to keep our egos ready for change?
Based on the examples of the train and ice given above, two principles can be seen in order to facilitate the change for ego: obedience and love. The train is subject to the train tracks, therefore it is obedient to the direction shown by the track; it does not go as its inertia requires. Also a piece of ice will not shatter into pieces when hit by a hammer, if that ice is melted.8 What melts the ego is the heat of love and affection sourcing from the heart. So, to keep our egos ready for changes, we must find a reliable track to obey and the heat of love to melt our egos.
The scenic view
The big picture drawn in this article is based on an alternating motion model with respect to a reliable point of reference. This vision is similar to the rotation of the Earth, both around its own axis and around the sun, which leads to the change of day and night and the alternation of seasons. This continuous change gives birth to the continued existence of life on Earth, where incredible beauties are displayed everyday, every moment. It is up to us to use the free will given by our Designer to preserve the dynamic character of our ego by which we can become the best of creation. It is also our free choice to give in to the inertia that is inherent in it.
1- Nursi, S., Epitomes of Light, Kaynak, p. 439.
2- Nursi, S., The Letters, Kaynak, Vol. II, p. 16.
3- Nursi, S., Epitomes of Light, Kaynak, p. 258.
5- Nursi, S., The Words, Vol. I, Kaynak, pp. 211-214.
6- ibid, pp. 251-253.
7- ibid, Vol. II, pp. 238-239.
8- Nursi, S., Flashes Collection, Sozler Publications, p. 220.