Friday, November 11, 2011

The Center of the Universe

Lying in bed one night with my laptop and headphones (I know, bad habit) I stumbled upon the amazing video below. I thought I'd share some of the thoughts it made me think:

1. The distance travelled in this video is roughly as far as the world's best telescopes can detect light ... which is about 14+ billion light years away. That means the light we're seeing from the most distant stars is 14+ billion light years old. That means it would take at least 28 billion years to make the trip shown in this video (there and back again, at the speed of light). Best estimates put earth at 4.55 billion years old. That's 4,550,000,000 spins around the sun. On average, we're alive for what, 60-80 spins? There were millions of buffalo roaming the prairies only 150 spins ago. Jesus was walking around talking to folk in Israel 1,980 spins ago. And we say a lot happens in a year? For us, a lot has.

2. In terms of logic, we really won't ever know what we're a part of, and we never will. When you reach the farthest point in the video, it shows up as a sphere not because that's the end, but because that's the furthest light our instruments can detect. What if you double the distance? Triple it? Billionth it? Then what do we see?! Or, better question: what the heck are we seeing? And then the video zooms back to this tiny little particle that we all live on ... a particle that's orbiting one of trillions of stars in one of trillions of galaxies. Like really! What are we a part of?

3. I felt a brief feeling of panic after watching this video when that last question came rushing into my mind. I thought of Gabrielle. I thought of last breaths. I visualized my own last breaths. I imagined how earth could have been created 5 times over in the duration the video's journey took me on (at light speed), and that made imagining the end points I just mentioned seem really easy. And scary. It was my first existential crisis.

4. But then some words came rushing into my mind that made me smile ... words from a conversation I had with our Buddhist-monk-yoga-instructor from our time in Korea. (For the record, I was horrible at yoga ... I still can't touch my toes or sit cross legged and, whenever Amy came with me, she and I would start laughing because she knew how much pain I was in doing all those poses, so we agreed we couldn't go to the same yoga classes any more, and then I stopped going altogether because it just hurt too much ... but I really should start again). Anyway, in one of our sessions he explained something like, "You are the center of the universe. I am the center of the universe. How could it be any other way?"

And those simple words helped me put the incomprehensible amounts of space and time and matter and energy shown in the video into a very simple and very beautiful perspective.

And I fell asleep listening to little Gabrielle breathing in the crib beside our bed.

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