The man who changed my life: Giordano Bruno
It was an ordinary afternoon back in March 2014. I was lying on my bed, disengaged and fatigued. Why? You may ask. I had just returned from a typical day at school, but it turned out I needed a lot more stimulation not to be bored out of my mind. I then turned on my usual National Geographic channel at around 5 pm, which had become a regular habit. It was playing the trailer of the newly introduced science series, "Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey."
I didn't know it then, but my life would never be the same again. This one series completely changed my life. Its ripple effects on who I am today are enormous. Still, I wanted to highlight one individual I was introduced to in that series that I repeatedly remember and admire more and more as time passes.
His name was Giodarno Bruno. He was an Italian philosopher, poet, cosmological theorist, and Hermetic occultist (this refers in ancient Greek and Egyptian mythology to the teachings of hermeticism, which deals with the study of astrology, medicine and pharmacology, alchemy, and magic). He is primarily known for his cosmological theory, which conceptually extended to include the then-novel Copernican model.
So why did a 16th-century Italian man become so influential in a 21st-century girl's, aka my life? It is not necessarily because of his work but rather because of how courageously he dared to think and act in alignment, no matter the consequences. How willing he was to sacrifice everything, including his own life, for truth over dogma.
His journey began by reading some dangerous books banned by the church like t lucreti cari de rerum natura. The books introduced and led him to build upon the idea of Nicolaus Copernicus that first introduced the idea of heliocentrism over geocentrism. The idea is that the Earth revolves around the sun and not vice versa. Giodarno further postulated that the universe is not finite but infinite with no set boundaries. He relentlessly urged, "Your god is too small to have a finite universe; it is, in fact, boundless." This was a paradigm-shifting idea and posed a massive threat to the then Roman Catholic Church since the church and the state were not separate. This idea would challenge the very beliefs that held control over the general public.
He exemplified the essence of the scientific thinking process in a place and a time when there was no freedom of thought and when doing so caused investigation and torment to anyone that dared voice views that differed from their own. This is commonly called contrarian thinking. But one thing I have learned about this type of thinking is that you can't just be contrarian. You must also be correct and follow the evidence no matter what conclusion it leads to by chasing truth over widespread acceptance. Unfortunately, his contrarian but right thinking led to him being burned alive in the Campo de Fiori in Rome.
This makes one wonder about the state of today's world. How intolerant we still are of each other, and as Carl Sagan says, "How willing we are to kill one another."
But this is another big reason I love space so much. It makes us face the truth. It makes us know that we are, in fact, not the center of our own universe and that our imagined self-importance is often ill-justified. So space continues to be a huge part of who I am, not just what I do. Further, knowing about his story interestingly reminds me of Steve Jobs, where the themes of a natural-born rebel, thinking differently, and questioning authority are parallel. Here is a quote by Jobs that I think resonates with Bruno's ideologies even after over five centuries of him being alive:
"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."
So, I urge you to ask yourself, are you the crazy one? The misfit? The rebel? The troublemaker? The one who sees things differently?
If so, how are you going to change the world?
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