I have been reading science fiction since I was eleven years old. I bought my first SF at the Blokker bookshop on the Bronsteeweg in Heemstede. I know of no genre that stimulates the imagination more and gives such a sense of wonder as SF...
And 'Starmaker' is perhaps the most inspiring and profound science fiction book I have ever read. The author is an Englishman called Olaf Stapledon and it was written in 1937. So you can find this book in the shop or library on the shelf labelled 'science fiction', but maybe you can just as easily find it among books on cosmology or transpersonal psychology or even religion ...
It is not just a story, but a description. A description that spans billions of years. Starmaker tells the story of a single human narrator who is inexplicably transported out of his body and given the chance to survey the vast expanse of the universe. This nameless narrator then explores other planets and civilisations, stars and galaxies, and eventually comes into contact with the creator of the universe - the "Star Maker".
Starmaker deals with philosophical themes such as the essence of life, of birth, decay and death, and the relationship between creation and creator. A recurring theme is that of progressive unity within and between different civilisations. Sir Arthur C. Clarke considered Starmaker "probably the most powerful work of imagination ever written", and Brian W. Aldiss called it "the single greatest holy book of science fiction".
"Awe-inspiring" is the word that comes to mind when reading this book. Awe at the universe in which we find ourselves, awe at the unimaginable distances in space and time.
For example, our galactic home, the Milky Way, is a spiral-shaped star island made up of at least 200 billion stars (more recent estimates even talk about 400 billion stars), the sun being one of them. And the Milky Way, in turn, is just one galaxy among trilions of other star islands in the observable universe. Observable' means that electromagnetic radiation (including visible light) can travel the distance to us during the time that the Universe exists and is expanding. That is, if there was a real beginning, which most astronomers assume (the famous 'Big Bang'), but which others doubt. Our universe might be just one in an infinite 'ocean' of perhaps an infinite number of other universes: a 'multiverse'.
This idea also appears in the book. The Star Maker creates multiple universes, culminating in an "ultimate cosmos," fulfilling the Star Maker's own eternal destiny as "the ground and crown of all things."
Since this is clearly fiction, it is not possible to draw factual conclusions, but it can give us a sense of what we have been given in this miraculous life:
"You have been given a body with a longer life span than even the most perfectly built machines we humans have invented. You have been given a brain with more complex intelligence than the most advanced A.I. we have been able to design. You have gained a self-awareness that gives you the richness and depth of an entire subjective ocean of experience. You have been given a universe of billions of light years of space and time at your personal disposal to play with, explore and think about." Shiv Sengupta
Anyone who does not become still at the sight and setting of the night sky on a moonless night without much light pollution has not been alive, in my opinion.
And maybe there are worlds where other beings live who look at the same sky with the same wonder. And perhaps all conscious life, through all times and in all worlds, is united in the same awe of the life that we are.