a reflection on stars

Hello! I haven’t written in a while. Been a weird few days. Sorry about that, here’s some more non-groundbreaking content that adds no value to your life, whatsoever! Thank you for reading this far.

Now, I’m a pretty big fan of stars, and the cosmos in general. There’s not much that can make me happier than lying down on a banig in the middle of dark night out of the city, staring up at the stars. My girlfriend, Aly, likes to do that too. She brings along her phone and opens up her star map to point at the skies. We have fun figuring out which star is which, which twinkles are planets, what the constellations look like to the naked eye.

In its own way, it’s very therapeutic. You realize how small you are in comparison to the wide cosmos. Whenever I look up at the stars, I see not just white twinkles in the sky. I see unlimited potential. Each one of those stars, burning hotter than the planet’s core, millions of miles away, have their own planets revolving around them. I wonder the same as the first men did: is there anyone out there? Will we ever know? Will we ever see? Will we ever make contact?

There’s a few theories floating around about whether or not we’re alone. There’s a saying by Arthur C. Clarke that I really like:

“Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”

And it’s true. It would be terrifying to realize that we are the only sentient beings in the universe, perhaps the only planet to ever hold life. What if we are? Are we, small and insignificant as motes of dust suspended in the light, truly alone in the universe? Is this whole expanse ours to explore, ours to die in?

Another possibility is that we are not alone, and this carries more weight with me. What human isn’t hopeful that there are others out there? Stephen Hawking, he of the computer-voice fame, said that intelligent alien beings will come and wipe us all out, Mass Effect style. Just imagine, someday a huge race of spacefaring aliens will come to Earth and kill every last one of us as we do an anthill, to steal our resources. We might end up as slaves and shit. Which would be very, very terrifying.

But enough about how inferior we could potentially be to an ancient alien civilization. There’s another theory I like believing in: if (you know what, let’s be positive) when we finally get to meet an alien civilization, we would be able to set up a discourse and talk to each other, and work towards the betterment of both of our civilizations. The problem here though is that humans are natural xenophobes. There will be a lot of friction. But I hope that in the future, we’d have evolved past that.

Anyway, that’s too far off tangent. I was talking about stars, yes. Now, all of these thoughts run through my head whenever I’m staring up at the stars. It’s scary, but in a lot of ways, beautiful and calming. It puts everything in perspective. Your problems, all of your worries and cares, all of our conflicts, disagreements, shady deals, environmental polluting… all of them are so, so insignificant to the universe. We are nothing but a fluke. Carl Sagan said this about this photo of Earth, taken by the Voyager 1 capsule about 6 billion miles from where it came from:

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“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

 

See how small we are, and how big and empty space is? This quote is what keeps me going through this life filled with uncertainty and chaos. If, for some incredible reason, all humans realize how little we really have, we would achieve peace. Countries and borders would fall down. Walls would collapse, political wills will mean next to nothing. All we would have is our accountability to our world, and to each other. Isn’t that a lovely thought?

We are all riding on a space ship, hurtling towards whatever at an amazing speed. This is all we have. And as I look up at the stars, I feel comfort in the fact that maybe, just maybe… we aren’t alone.

BONUS: SOMEDAY THE MILKY WAY WILL FUSE WITH THE ANDROMEDA GALAXY AND IT WOULD BE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING EVER

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