In a related incident, earlier in the week, a friend of mine posted a video called Gigapixels of Andromeda which through some amazing photography and video enhancement showed the sheer size of our nearest spiral galaxy, Andromeda. His comment to the post was that this video was just amazing. In a funny side note, someone posted in the comments that they "didn't get it", or didn't understand what was so amazing about it. The amazing thing is the enormity of it all, This is ONE galaxy, out of many galaxies, and it is infinitely big.
If you watch the embedded video, you will see that small chunks of this beautiful picture reveal that there are multiple, multiple layers to Andromeda. I'm no scientist, but I am fairly certain there are stars in that galaxy that would dwarf our sun many times over.
It was a combination of these photos and my son's sudden cosmic awareness of his young adulthood in a big wide world that spurred our discussion over dinner. He thought it was fascinating that our world is a closed system and that everything that is will one day be dust - and repeat. He said it was hitting him how little our lives were, but that the guy sitting across from us in a restaurant or school, has an equally small life, complicated by problems, joys and sorrows. It was not a depressing talk at all, more of an awakening or a revelation by him of the world and cosmos around him. Welcome to adulthood.
And it was his discussion with me that led me to contemplate my own place in the universe, in this brief speck of history I happen to be in. If I didn't have a great faith, I'd wonder even more what our purpose was here on earth. And between the incredible vastness of our universe and the moments of beauty and brilliance that make up our lives, I am only further convinced that God is behind it all.
As a writer of memoir, I am constantly looking back at events in my life. Thankfully, I've had a great life and most of my memories are good ones. If you look back on your life, hopefully the good memories outnumber the bad. As much as we need to look ahead to what is coming, I am a firm believer that we will look at the future with a healthier, less worrisome perspective if we look back at the good that has brought us to where we are.
I'm speaking of good things, moments of beauty, significance and perfection, like:
- The first time you held hands with a girl (or boy).
- A memorable Christmas gift or moment.
- The thunder of Niagara Falls - Because if you have ever taken the Maid of the Mist to the edge of the falls, it is a religious experience.
- Experiencing the birth of your child, or a child of someone else.
- Riding in a car with your high school friends and listening to the radio.
- Your first rock concert.
- Serving in a soup kitchen.
- The exhilaration of skiing or sledding down a steep hill.
- A perfect sunset on a still lake.
- Your graduation, promotion, or other significant recognition.
- Watching your child in a play or orchestra event.
- The sweeping vastness of the South Dakota Badlands or Grand Canyon.
- The meditative quality of the ocean surf.
These simple moments are spread throughout the much more numerous mundane moments that make up the majority of our lives. It's easy enough to recall them -and there are hundreds of them - and if we remember to, it makes the future that much richer and more hopeful. We are but specks in the universe, but that certainly doesn't mean that our lives don't have deep meaning.
And that's about as deep as I can get on a Sunday in January.