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The author of this book has experienced an often surprising increase of understanding of our human existence (and suggests this experience to the reader) through the study of physics, astronomy, biology, neurology, and some psychology, philosophy, and theology – but also through participation in the arts and in environmental programs. A balanced understanding of our human life required dedicated participation in charitable work, to share the experience of the burdened and lonely ones among us. On the other hand, fullness of life came from the joy of family life, friendship, nature, and art or culture.
The author’s work in the early aerospace industry of California gave him a view of our Earth as merely a small particle in the greatness of the universe of billions of galaxies. Such a view resulted in further insight into the smallness of our material existence and the far reach of our mental exploration – while realizing that our life lasts only for a very short time in cosmic dimensions.
Another fundamental insight resulted from the recognition that nothing in existence is stable. All parts and configurations in our universe are always in motion and in evolution – from a beginning to an ultimate dissolution.
You are invited to participate in a long-distance journey of the mind through time. The journey begins with viewing the origin of our universe billions of years ago, then leading through ongoing evolution to the present. Traveling through cosmic time implies traveling through increasing complexity as the universe evolves, then later shedding detail, and finally fading. Consideration of the origin includes the origin of life and, at least on Earth, of the human mind.
With the human mind, the universe has evolved small centers of “consciousness”, thereby observing itself and acting upon itself, by glorious activation of thought, emotions, and aesthetics!
And now, what can or should be the goals of our life here on Earth? What direction shall we take to “fulfill” our lives? What guides and supports us? How can we find and share “joy”? What awaits us in old age and death? What does the future hold for mankind? What are the risks and opportunities?
This book is based on lifelong searching, followed by many years of focused research and writing. The results were 34 essays or articles covering a wide horizon, including:
- This collection of essays, “Our Journey through Time and Existence”
- Science and evolution (including 9 articles): Covering the origin of existence in terms of cosmology, the origin of Earth and Moon, the origin and evolution of life and of the human mind with its capabilities and limits, the origin of societies or cultures – and a cosmic ending
- The human brain and mind (including 10 articles): Analyzing the functioning and the various capabilities or limitations of the human mind, some leading to suffering – all analyzed in terms of neurology and cognitive psychology
- Philosophy and Theology (including 8 articles): Beginning with the key questions of meaning, purpose, and direction in life, then extending to the controversy between religion and science, and to modern themes, such as a reinterpretation of the biblical Beatitudes, a modern form of meditation for believers or nonbelievers, and more. This is followed by a description of aging and approaching death, as already considered by Cicero and Plato
- History and Politics (including 6 articles): About the historic origin and modern decay of some societies or cultures, but specifically including an outlook on the future fundamental problems and opportunities for human society. This section also includes some historical research and biographies.
Those 34 essays, or articles, are all published on the website “www.schwab-writings.com”, which, by now, has received about 1.4 million “hits” from 193 countries around the world.
Now is the time, however, for the (aging) author to bring this effort to a conclusion and to “put his house in order”. The following questions are raised:
- What is the essence of all those writings
- What do these articles contribute to the large flow of information on the internet
- What is the message or the legacy that the author wants to leave for the world
In attempting to answer these questions, some key articles were assembled, some were condensed, some were changed; the result is an arching overview over existence and our life in this “final” summary essay, entitled “Our Journey Through Time and Existence”.
When finished reading, you may gladly return to the life you are accustomed to, in your own personal dimensions and surroundings. Hopefully, however, you will be enriched by this journey through the deeper views into an existence we are all part of – and by a deeper understanding of our own nature. This may simply entertain you; but it may also give you peace in daily turmoil and the strength to act as life and our values demand.
This essay can also be seen as a modern version of “De Rerum Natura”, written by Lucretius in about 50 BC, intended to present an overview of all science at that time, including cosmic origin, the human mind, thought, and death – though at that time without knowledge of modern physics or natural evolution. His writing was based, in turn, on the teachings of the Greek philosopher Democritos, who lived from about 460 to 370 BC, a student of Leukippos (about 500 to 450 BC, inventor of the concept of an atomic structure of this world) and of Thales of Miletus (624-546 BC), both seeing the functioning of this world without divine interference.
Documentation: The subject matter of the various chapters of these writings varies widely. Therefore, each chapter would require separate documentation or a separate bibliography. Depending upon the reader’s interest, such documentation would have to reach from a general level to rather complex professional details. Interestingly, our sons would not use either. When they have questions, they proceed directly to Google. If that does not yield enough, they proceed immediately to Wikipedia. It is amazing how much more information they obtain in a shorter time and at lower cost rather than by consulting lists of applicable books or articles.
Therefore, no bibliographies are included in these writings.
About the Author: Helmut Schwab, with MS degrees in Physics and Electronics, worked in the California aerospace industry, where he started and built two companies. Their sale allowed him to take a “businessman’s sabbatical” for a leisure trip with his family around the world, experiencing different cultures. He then worked some more time as an executive in high-tech areas of large international companies.
His personal studies and research (including 20 years of auditing courses at Princeton University) were concentrated on questions of cosmic origin, natural evolution, and the capabilities of the human mind. He has also studied the dichotomy between science and religion, specifically the question of the consequent meaning or purpose of our lives – always in sincere empathy with all the searching and suffering individuals he encountered – but also with a practical mind.
Schwab has volunteered in the community on environmental issues, concerns of the handicapped, and for low-income families in our inner cities.
He finds joy in life in observing beauty in nature, whether in grandiose scenery or minute detail, and through participation in the arts – see the collection of his short stories published as the book “The Golden Mirror” – and more on the internet at “www.schwab-stories.com”.
Helmut Schwab values the mutual support provided by an extended family. He especially cherishes the warmth of family life and joyful companionship.
The search for a higher view.
In a deep forest, at the foot of an old tree, there was a big anthill. A hundred thousand ants may possibly have lived in it. Most of them were merely workers, who silently fulfilled their tasks – the care for the eggs and small larvae which would transform into new ants – and the occasional leaving of the hill to search for food and pine needles recently fallen from trees, to put another layer onto the hill.
Thus passed life for the ants within the darkness of their hill. There was, however, a certain warmth and a certain feeling of community in there.
Ants, too, possess some minor diversity of capabilities – if not of personalities.
One of the ants wondered what the world further out, beyond the narrow area of search for food and needles, beyond the dominance of the tribe, would look like – and what sense or meaning out there life could possibly have.
Thus, our ant communicated with two other ants, however little ants can do that, to ask them to come along and climb the tree where their anthill was located – to see what the whole world would look like – to possibly understand from where they all came and what sense or meaning the whole thing would have.
On a nice day, the three ants began their ascent of the tree.
But after only 10 meters, the two companion ants turned around. They found the forest’s wide, empty, lifeless spaces quite frightful. Mainly, the large dark trees visible at different distances around them appeared threatening.
They preferred being back in the dense vastness of their anthill, with all the other ants whom they knew and with whom they could communicate in their own way – and where they had the customary work, without the need for confusing thought.
Our ant now climbed, alone and lonesome, further up the tree, in order to see just once the whole world and possibly also to understand it.
After a long climb, the dark crown of the tree was reached, with interwoven branches of several adjacent trees. What a strange world – but one without any such life as that of the ants. Was there any different life at all anywhere?
Then the climb continued beyond the dense crown of the tree to the highest branches reaching into the open sky. There was even more emptiness around the ant than anywhere before. One could look over the forest to ever more distance, as over a surface of waves.
But what did the ant see in the greatest distance? It looked like an extended wall – it was a range of mountains. This did not exist anywhere in the world of the ants. Why did it exist up here, in the distance? How did it originate? What sense did it make?
After the last part of the ant’s climb, a surface of water became visible at the foot of the mountains, immensely larger than the puddles that could form after a rain close to the anthill.
Now it became clear to the ant that the mountains had risen out of the water, then forests had covered the mountains, and last, the anthill appeared as the highest form of life in this world!
Did the immense width of this view have any meaning for the life of the ants, possibly on a much higher level? What, then, was the meaning of the lives of the ants?
A small bird – as strange as a meteorite – came flying through empty air, aiming for the ant! But it had quickly hidden itself.
After this horrifying experience, the ant chose to climb down again. Arriving below, the ant hesitated one short moment before reentering the hill, once more looking up the tree into that other, so much larger world – which, after all, was also the ant’s world – or had now become the ant’s world.
The ant reentered the anthill. There it was warm and connected with many others, all of them pursuing their meaningful tasks.
But there was no way to communicate with others about this excursion. They did not understand our ant; actually, they did not want to know or care very much about the strange larger world – in which they, however, were embedded, too. Wasn’t life in the anthill interesting enough, occasionally exciting or dangerous and, ultimately, meaningful enough?
Our ant became a bit of an outsider. It had to try hard to be like all the others, to be fully accepted.
The ants continued to concentrate on the eggs and the small larvae, which came forth to become another generation of ants, to spend the same life in the anthill as any generation would again.
Then, a violent wildfire raged through the forest. Only ashes remained of the anthill – soon blown away by the wind. All memories of that one ant and its view were lost.