Scene4-International Magazine of Arts and Culture
The Enigma of Being | Sandeep Girish Bhatnagar | Scene4 Magazine-March 2018

The Enigma of Being
A View of the Universe from
a Cassegrain Reflector Telescope
with a 94.5-inch Primary Mirror

Sandeep Girish Bhatnagar

For some reason in 1996, basically with only a desire to know more,

Astronomers pointed the Hubble telescope into

Deep space, towards a dark patch,

Close to the constellation known as the Big Dipper,

At a point no bigger than a grain of sand,

And waited to see what they would find.


Dark space and a complete

Absence of visuals was what they expected.

Instead what they got was like the scene at a Metro

Station during the rush hour: 3,000 galaxies

Jostling for space and

Elbowing one another so as to make room for themselves.

It was almost as if they were in a hurry to get somewhere

And hadn’t  a moment to spare.

Each was with a retinue of hundreds of billions of stars

To command at will. 

All this in a place, which appeared

Blank and devoid of everything.


This brings up the question whether emptiness actually exists?

Can we find an absence of matter in any direction?

Space is there, for that is what galaxies move around in.

Or is it all just one great expanse of time,

Eternity stretching out in all directions,

North, south, east and west?

But the cardinal directions mean nothing out in space.

There is no up or down, either.


One is prompted to say, ‘Such is life!’

Such is life, indeed.

But that would be facile, for we have yet to detect life elsewhere.

All we can find are more and more potentialities

In the form of billions of habitable planets.

Given the laws of probability,

Life must exist out there somewhere.

But are these laws valid all over the universe?  

Every way we turn, we find the laws of

Physics and Mathematics

Being hard pressed to come up with meanings.


Once again, they ventured forth in 2004.

This time, they directed the telescope

At an area close to the constellation of Orion

And found over 10, 000 galaxies.

These galaxies are racing away from us;

In some cases, at speeds greater than that of light.

(For so long, we had felt nothing could travel

Faster than light and here we have entire

Galaxies moving faster than the eye can see

Or the mind formulates a thought)


By combining these results,

Astronomers constructed a model.

They found that there are over

A 100 billion galaxies  in the universe.

(Which actually means nothing,

As the number in itself is inexpressible,

Signifying infinity and infinity is merely a concept)


We pointed one of the most powerful telescopes

Ever built by human beings and found

That we are less than a grain of sand

In a dry and barren desert.


Yet the spirit does not bend,

Even when confronted with speeds greater than that of light

And gravity stronger than that of a million Suns.

And darkness does not daunt,

Despite being immeasurable and without end,

Nor does the space-time continuum and

The complete lack of any absolute values.


Even where Mathematics does not work, is irrelevant;

And light refuses to move,

As in gigantic black holes;

We follow through,

Our feeble brains trying to grapple

With that which we can

Never hope to comprehend.


We realize that our five senses are not enough:

We need another five or six or even more,

Merely to be able to ask questions,

The right questions,  

Those that matter and are worth taking

The trouble to delve into.


Closer to home:

We wonder at the 46 chromosomes within,

Twenty-three each from mom and dad,

And seek to predict the divine key

That dictates their functioning.

There is a pattern, to be sure,

There is always a pattern in all we do.


How do we become what we are?

And what is it that governs

Our understanding of all there is?

Are we merely wasting time,

Measuring that which cannot

And does not need to be measured

Or neatly catalogued?


Does it matter, is it worthwhile,

To take pleasure in the infinitesimal

Moment our lives inhabit

In endless space and time?

Need we wonder and eventually

Hope to emulate speeds exceeding that of light

Or distances, we can never hope to measure,

Except in the form of paradigms.

(Distances in space are measured in light years,

Or the time it would take for light to

Travel in one Julian year: 9.461e+15 metres

Or 5.8786 trillion miles)


What if time does slow down at speeds

Approaching that of light?

What happens when speeds

Become greater than that of light?

Does time stop altogether?

If time stops,

Does it mean nothing will happen?

No actions or events or anything else that

Makes up our existence?


Time stops for us when we watch

A dear one depart or a new one arrive.

Time becomes endless

While rushing a loved one to the hospital

In an ambulance;

Each moment stretches

Across our lives interminably.


Does it matter what my DNA is,

If medicines cannot heal me and surgeons

Fail to remove that which troubles me?

Probably it does

But doctors are not quite sure

How to use it our advantage.


I watch in awe the simulated formation of

A black hole and wonder how the one

Within me will be resolved?

All light dissipates as it approaches me

And I subject it to scrutiny.

All hopes, faith, desires, affection, assurance,

My very sense of being

Disappears into my own sub-cosmic black hole,

An abyss nothing can ever fill.



Is this all there is:

Black holes and supernova

Red giants and white dwarves,

And a universe that will one day implode?

Nothing else?

Nothing to look forward to?

No rewards in an afterlife?


Usually, it’s the answers one finds difficult.

All sorts of people ask all sorts of questions

You and I can’t answer, or at least, wouldn’t like to.

Here, it’s the question that’s difficult to frame.

What should we ask?

What is the mystery?

Confronted by immense loneliness ,

One is unable to come up with a suitable question.

One can’t just say: What’s it all about?

Where does it start and where does it end?

That’s being much too naive,

As even a child would remark.


‘Where’ may turn to ‘what’.

What is it that starts and

What is that will end at some place,

Time or space?

Or something that combines them both

But leaves out that which we are all seeking for.


We stare heavenwards and rub our eyes,

Dumbfounded and speechless.

There is a question out there somewhere,

Just waiting to be asked.

Once it reveals itself,

We can all begin

To search for answers.


At present all we do is,

Try to find out more about everything

And learn we know

Much to little about what we were so sure of

A short while ago.


It’s always been this way:

So sure of one thing,

We turn to another,

Only to realize how wrong

We were about the first

And absolutely clueless about the other.

We can calculate to nano-measure, weights and distances,

Our life spans and those of other animals.

The rest defies speculation.


We ponder and search

Amongst the stars for a sign

Till we arrive at their origins,

Rather than those of the problems

We were seeking solutions for.


Are we simply debris on a large rock,

Shaped by gravity and the particles left over

From the formation of the sun?

The kind of life we find beneath stones

At the bottom of our gardens

Or in some desolate corner of a public park:

Something no one wants to even look at

And from which we turn away in disgust.

Centipedes, snails, slugs,

 Wallowing in timelessness until someone

Accidently steps on them.


How would you like squirming, slimy things

Moving about on your front porch

Or in your rock garden,

Regardless of the levels of culture these

Organisms may claim to possess?


From nothing to nothing,

Dust to dust.


Is this all there is:

Unmitigated darkness,

Mere emptiness,

Stretching back over eons

Before the birth of our parent star?


 I beg to differ, for rocks are rocks

And planets, planets

Because you and I exist,

Have eyes to see

And minds to visualize with. 


Perhaps, there is something in the myths of creation.

Maybe someone did take time out

To create the universe we live in

And all that is there in it.


Let them point the James Webb telescope

(when it is finally put into orbit in 2019)

At every star in every constellation or dark gap in between

And find even more galaxies racing away from us

Till the end of space and time.

It won’t alter a thing.


Stars will remain stars

And planets, planets

Only so long

As you and I exist

And care enough to think about them. 

Send A Letter
To The Editor

Share This Page

View other readers’ comments in Letters to the Editor

Sandeep Girish Bhatnagar studied literature at the University of Bombay (Mumbai) and plans to carry out research on aspects of Indian Writing. His work has been published in various literary journals such as Himal, Euphony, Shakespeare (a magazine), Kavya Bharati and Avatar Review (an online journal). He is also a professional seafarer and holds a Foreign Going Master's Certificate of Competency. 
For more of his writings, check the Archives..

©2018 Sandeep Girish Bhatnagar
 ©2018 Publication Scene4 Magazine




April 2018

Volume 18 Issue 11

SECTIONS: Cover | This Issue | inFocus | inView | inSight | Perspectives | Special Issues 
COLUMNS: Alenier | Bettencourt | Meiselman | Jones | Thomas | Marcott | Walsh | Letters 
INFORMATION: Masthead | Submissions | Recent Issues | Your Support | Links | Archives
CONNECTIONS: Contact Us | Comments | Subscribe | Advertising | Privacy | Terms |

Search This Issue


Search The Archives


Share Email

Scene4 (ISSN 1932-3603), published monthly by Scene4 Magazine–International Magazine of Arts and Culture. Copyright © 2000-2018 Aviar-Dka Ltd – Aviar Media Llc.

Scientific American -
Calibre Ebook Management -
Thai Airways at Scene4 Magazine