Black and white photograph of Emily Dickinson sitting next to a desk.

Emily Dickinson

A poem,


The Brain - is wider than the Sky -
For - put them side by side -
The one the other will contain
With ease - and You - beside -

The Brain is deeper than the sea -
For - hold them - Blue to Blue -
The one the other will absorb -
As Sponges - Buckets - do -

The Brain is just the weight of God -
For - Heft them - Pound for Pound -
And they will differ - if they do -
As Syllable from Sound -

Black and white photograph of Emily Dickinson sitting next to a desk.

E.C. Krupp

Echoes of the Ancient Skies,


We have arrived at an interesting juncture. We may not be able to sort out the universe, but our attempts to do so may help us sort out our minds. Cosmic order is a product of the processing that goes on in our brains. The human brain has a job to do: it must make sense of the world. The real genius of the brain is its ability to simplify the world, to reduce it to the ingredients essential for our survival, and to rescue us from the madness of information overload.

Organized, cooperative groups have an evolutionary advantage, but it takes intelligence—a big brain—for us to deal with each other. We can be misled, however, by our consciousness of our own intelligence and believe that our big brains are really able—or will be able—to know the cosmos completely. We rarely think of the limits of intelligence. But each time we return to the myth of cosmic order—and realize we still use it—we should recognize our brains for what they are: tools that help us fill the environmental niche we so successfully occupy. The sky is one of the things that helped make the big brain work, but we are not detached, omniscient observers of the universe. We are participants.


From Echoes of the Ancient Skies. Copyright © 1983, 1994 by Edwin C. Krupp. Used with permission of Dover Publications, Inc.

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