Let me explain something; I am an English person. And… by English person I don’t mean that I’m from England, I think it has been established that I am not. I mean, in fact, that I am good at English and History. I’ve discovered over the years that there are two types of people (though it should come as no surprise to most), English people and Science people. As stated before, I am an English person. I like dates, people, and stories. Stories make sense to me, whether fictional or real. Numbers do not tell stories to me the way that words can, though I wish they could. No epiphany that I’ve ever experienced has ever related even remotely to numbers. And I like science. I’ve always liked science from when I went to science camp as a kid. Sadly, there is no science without math, and math… I am so dismally bad at that I can’t help but loathe. So basically, I am fascinated with science and science people because I am so most certainly not one of them. Plus, well, I think Big Important Things are sort of conductive to being science things.
I went to this lecture a couple of weeks ago about Hypervelocity Stars. That may not need to be capitalized. Actually, it probably doesn’t, but it feels like it should be, and so it remains. So, Hypervelocity Stars are, in brief, stars that are propelled away from the supermassive black hole stationed at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. There are several ways this can occur. The only one I remember is that somehow the orbit of a binary solar system jets one of the suns away from the black hole and sends it sailing across the galaxy at ridiculously high speeds. It sort of made me wonder, while learning about this, if someday we could be sitting around, minding our business, orbiting the Sun and then ‘Wham!’ we get hit by a star. Cause… that would suck. She assured us, though, that the chances of that happening are so miniscule that it doesn’t bear thinking about. The Milky Ways is not very dense, it seems, though looking up at the sky it seems so peppered with stars that the idea of them being so far apart is difficult. But then… the whole thing is a bit difficult. The Earth feels big. It feels like everything. We know how much bigger the Sun is than the Earth, and how many times our planet would fit into the gas giant, Jupiter. But, we can’t really understand because we can not really see it. It takes ten years to travel to Pluto. Space is too big.
When I was twenty I went to the Grand Canyon. I knew all about it before, of course, who doesn’t? I’d always wanted to see it. I’d imagined it in my head. I knew exactly what it was going to look like because I had seen photographs. But, in my head you could stand on one side of it and gaze over at the other. It would be far away, to be sure, but I would be able to see it. I was wrong. I was in no way prepared for how immense it really is. Phenomenally beautiful and carved into the side of the world. We drove to the camp ground twenty-five miles from where we first enter the park. Twenty-five miles didn’t seem like much, but traveling about forty to fifty miles per hour it took us a good long time to get there. I didn’t understand the size of it really. I had seen plenty of photographs, but photographs can only contain so much. I had confused different sections for different angles and assumed that what I was seeing was the majority of what there was. That was wrong. And I imagine space to be a little bit like that. I can be told how big things are, but I can’t understand it because it’s too much. My mind will literally not fit around it. And I become very, very small.
The thing is that the universe is so incredibly big that it’s impossible to fathom. Oh, we can know that it’s enormous, billions and billions of times larger than anything we can imagine, but when you stop to break that down it becomes sort of impossible. The world is a large place. And by world I mean Earth. There are a million nooks and crannies filled with so many cultures that differences alone make it seem every bigger. I am one girl living on Earth. Earth is one planet circling one Sun along with seven other planets doing the same. It takes three hundred and sixty-five days for us to do so, and twenty-four hours to complete a rotation. Outside our solar system are other solar systems with other planets. Alpha Centauri is the closest star to our solar system, save the Sun of course, at one point thirty-four parsecs away. One parsec is equal to thirty one trillion kilometers. Beyond that are billions of other stars. The Milky Way is one hundred thousand light years in diameter and houses somewhere between one hundred and four hundred billion stars. Even further are other galaxies housing billions of other stars. And it keeps going for further than is even imaginable to imagine. It feels difficult to think that each person is in any way important when stacked up to that.
It feels like that should make me feel sad, but it doesn’t. Actually, it makes me feel part of something, however small a cog I may be. That’s not the normal response, I don’t think. I mean, I have heard over and over again about people who consider the immensity of everything and just how tiny they are in comparison and feel inconsequential. I understand that, but here is the truth they don’t consider; we are inconsequential. When you break it down, really, pretty much nothing that the human race has ever achieved is really of any consequence. If we weren’t here the universe would keep spinning around itself oblivious to our existence at all. So I guess I need to look at it a bit smaller.
There are people, amazing, brilliant people who write amazing things, or discover amazing things, or invent amazing things. They make the world a little better, or a little easier. Their names will be passed along in generations until they are eventually forgotten on the bent page of a history book. But most of us are just people, just like the next person. We do things all our lives in order to leave things behind and not be forgotten. Whether some work that people will be exposed to for years to come or simply a family who will mourn us.
And then sometimes I look at life and realize how much of a complete accident it must have been. All the elements, the same elements that make up everything else, combined in just the perfect way so that it created us, and gave us the ability to think. It’s amazing.
I was talking about all this with Co-worker C during a break at The Job and she was having the same trouble I can only imagine so many other people have. What’s the point? If we’re so tiny and nothing that we do really matters then what is the point? Here is the point; be happy. Do what’s important to you, help people, love people, learn things, make money, buy things, see things, whatever it is that makes you happy. Because there isn’t any other point. Yes, we have a responsibility to the planet where we live; yes we have a responsibility to the generation below us. We have responsibilities; I am not suggesting they be shirked. But in all that responsibility there are plenty of moments. It’s your life, you decide what you do with it, and don’t settle for less. The only thing that you can ruin is your immediate prospects, and there is always something new to come along. I hate my job, I hate it so vehemently that sometimes I can’t help but scream into things when I get home, but it’s a job and I got it right when my money was going to run out. Work is the bits in-between, the rest of it is mine.
Here’s a small truth; all of that is as important as anything else. I think of Casablanca here, and other films or stories with similar plot. Victor Laszlo is important. Getting Victor Laszlo out of Casablanca and on to Portugal is probably the most important thing that can happen in that film, because he’s a larger cog in a cause that matters to everyone. This doesn’t make the other characters small, it makes them pieces of the puzzle that had to put together to make what happens happen. The happiness of the two main characters matters less than getting Victor Laszlo out of the country because they both believe in the cause, it’s more important than happiness. Peter Lorre is just as imperative, bulging eyes and all.
Here’s a larger truth; no one is ever going to know the meaning of life. Why we’re here. Why everything arranged so perfectly so that we could be here, and know the things we know, and use the things we know to discover new amazing things everyday. Sometimes it feels like some sort of beautiful accident. Other times it feels as if we’re just part of some sort of web of life that must span somewhere else in the Universe.
When I was little and I watched Disney’s Aladdin for about the million and eighth time I sat there pondering things at the end. I turned to K after the Sultan magnanimously announces that the Jasmine should be able to marry whoever she deems worthy and asked; “But what if she deemed a mouse worthy?” She just said “Then she’d marry a mouse”. Well, she was older and wiser and this blog is dangerously close to crossing into politics, but it stands to reason. If Princess Jasmine married a mouse it would probably be some sort of country wide uproar. She’d probably be called crazy, a bunch of people would probably lose their heads, and it would be remembered for a very very long time. But eventually two things would happen 1) the story of the Princess and the Mouse would become history that would turn into folklore that would turn into nothing. And 2) billions of years later the Sun will expand. It will roast the Earth. And then none of it will have ever mattered in the first place. Maybe it’s weird, but that gives me comfort.
And if that’s not enough for you… then you’d better go out and find some sort of religion cause I can’t help you.