Observable Universe

When I was little I lived in the countryside, many miles away from the nearest major city [Havana]. At dusk, as the last of the sun’s orangy rays disappeared in the palm littered horizon of the Cuban campo, my father and I would sit on the porch and watch as the clouds drifted lazily, their colors changing from lilacs and fiery reds to that familiar sapphire preceding black. In Cuba moonless nights are pitch black, solid and impregnable. The world fades when night falls and becomes a place of mystery, when all your senses grasp and stretch for any recognizable sign be it smell or sound. On these nights, as the sun would begin its downward descent, and the breeze carried with the the scent of the muralla tree, we would look up at the sky and watch as the stars gradually appeared one after the other until the sky was filled with light. There were so many stars; thousands upon thousands, truly uncountable. My father would explain each constellation and with these¬†facts came tales of magical and mythological creatures; stories of the great Greek heroes and the splendor of Mt. Olympus. I grew up gazing at the stars, trying to count them; asking questions about their origins. I’ve always been interested in astronomy. When I was in grammar school my parents bought me a telescope and on nights when the moon was full and clear in the sky I would gaze up at it looking at each crater closely; imagining what it would be like to live there. When I was in high school I stole a big Astronomy text book from the teacher’s desk and read the whole thing through. It’s still sitting on my bookcase. The most astounding part was how infinite and ordered the universe seemed to be. Everything had a rhythm, a pattern and everything was a subset of something else. Looking at the pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope brought back much of the childhood wonder. Actually being able to see the web of space composed of millions of galaxy super clusters was a reality check. Home is so small, so tiny and fragile in comparison to the rest of the universe. Our planet is but a spec of dust floating in the cosmos, same with our galaxy, same with the cluster that houses our galaxy. Intergalactic travel is so far away, but even if it was possible, it would take us infinity to travel and know the universe. The vastness is profound.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our petty little problems that we let those things become our immediate universe. We let those emotions occupy our imaginations and bog us down with useless hours of suffering. In truth our lifetimes are brief, and much like Earth traveling through the sea of endless stars, our lifetimes are tiny and minute. All our lives put together from the beginning of time aren’t even enough to leave a mark, and yet we spend our time worrying about silly little things.

Maybe it’s time to look at things a little differently. Maybe it’s time to realize that while we are all part of something and do make some difference, everything we do matters very little in the grand scheme of things. There are few people that we will be able to affect, fewer still who will remember us. Our existence is a real mystery both to science and those around us. Not only do we not know why we are here, but what would it matter if we did? On one hand we have reality and in the other ego, and it’s always the ego that reaffirms our importance. Are we important?

We are simply components of a vast and very ordered universe, no more or any less important than the grasshoppers or the blades of grass that we step on. We are minute, insignificant and ordinary, made up of the same things as the rest of the universe. Our technology only serves to show us how much there is that we will never know, it serves to remind us that we are one of those tiny specs that make up the larger whole. Is that bad? Of course not. I find a sense of peace in knowing that I am part of the universe. That my skin and bones and blood and the air I breathe was once created inside a nebula along with our tiny sun. We came from outer space :)

We are part of the universe.

Part of the infinite whole…

We are.

[learn_more caption=”What’s New?”] On Sunday I went with my family to the Museum of Natural History in NYC. I hadn’t been there in quite some time and it was nice to return. The old Hayden Planetarium was torn down and a new one was built in its place. The Space Show is really amazing! This show wasn’t merely about being able to gaze up at the night sky, it included brand new footage from the Hubble Space Telescope. Our “observable” universe has really grown and if we knew what we know now three thousand years ago all of our philosophies would be very different. Sitting there, viewing pictures of the Virgo Cluster (where the Milky Way resides) and seeing as our tiny spiral galaxy disappeared from view and became a tiny spec just opened my eyes to so many things. It was humbling to be reminded that we are very small and yet, the affirmation was there…we are all composed of “star stuff,” part of something beautiful and majestic and absolutely awe inspiring. We are all citizens of the universe.[/learn_more]