The year was 1985. I was a teenager entering the Xth grade in school, subscribed to an Indian children’s magazine “Tinkle“. One item in an issue in 1985 caught my fancy. It was in the Science section: “How to build your own telescope”.
By that age, I was already fascinated by science in general and astronomy in particular. I had read how Galileo had watched the moons of Saturn and I was enchanted. The telescope described in the Tinkle article would have a magnification of 20x with an aperture of 2.5 inch. If it were built, you could watch the craters on the moon! I was fascinated but, how could I build one myself?
Huge rolls of thick paper from calendars, stuck together with adhesive, rolled to form the tube with a slit for the main front lens. Smaller roll of thick paper glued with adhesive to form the smaller tube to hold the eye piece, adjusted in dimension so that it could roll in-and-out easily within the larger tube of the front lens. Begging my parents for Rs. 175 to then let my elder brother buy those lenses.
Slowly, the telescope began to form. But it needed a stand. We had an old, discarded table study lamp, with a spherical base, and a ball-socket arrangement for an upper hemi-spherical base for the lamp. It was a gift from the school for my elder sister for her scholarly aptitude. I cut off the upper hemi-spherical base, and the cylindrical socket for it fitted the thinner eye-piece cylinder of my telescope perfectly! Wow. My telescope was ready.
From that point on, I was watching the craters on the moon, gazing at the Orion Nebula, and trying my best to observe galaxies beyond my reach. M42 became a beloved object in my life and has remained so for many decades henceforth. My passion and my curiosity had no boundaries. That telescope magnified the extent to which my human vision could reach. It taught me that there are tools man invents to reach outside and beyond the limitations of our perceptions and our individual experiences.
28 years later, I ask myself, which telescope am I using now? Not to gaze into outer space, but to observe within and around myself. The answer came readily: it is books, movies, and primarily, people. Books and movies expand our experiences beyond what our own perception could ever have. Books place you into situations you’ve never been, make you understand the motivations of characters you’ve never met. Movies let you experience situations you’ll probably never experience and allow your imagination to fly. These are telescopes that magnify individual human perception and expand it beyond what would have been naturally possible.
People are the ultimate telescopes. Every person, has a wealth of experience and learning and wisdom to whomever is allowed access. Every person has a wealth of knowledge we’ve never learned, a treasure of insights we’ve never had, a gold mine of experiences we’ll never have. How often do we make use of these readily available telescopes?
How much trouble, how much effort, I went through to construct my first telescope! Do I take even a 10% effort in utilizing the telescopes that other people offer me for free?
“Oh no, he lives in such a bad area, it’s a pain just to drive to his home.” “Oh no, she talks too much, I can’t even listen to her anymore.” “Oh no, he is too pretentious.” “Oh no, she is too much into her own thing she doesn’t care about anybody else.” There are dozens and dozens of reasons we have for ourselves.
Each of these human beings is a telescope, if only one were willing to watch through the eyepiece. The eyepiece, in this case, is the human ability to listen, which we most often abuse – or in other words, don’t use at all.
We reject the view, by not listening at all. Often, we choose not to view through the telescope.
Because, we’re so comfortable with our own worldview, that anything that changes it, is deeply uncomfortable to us. We do not want telescopes.