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No. 5 - On Vastness
A Little (Cosmic) Antidote for Worry
Hello and howdy! Thanks for coming back for yet another issue. This one is a little spiritual (what’s life without a little risk?), but I hope it will resonate with you. I won’t say more, lest I spoil the thing.
The other day, as my wife and I were getting ready for bed, we came to have a conversation about meaning. We were tired out of our skins, and the question that got us going was, what is the point of all this? So we started examining everyday things like work, and school, and childbirth, before turning our appraising eyes to the Earth and the universe.
Being a long-time believer in lofty concepts like „finding a purpose” and „discovering your calling”, I argued in favour of there existing a logic to the way the world works, however much that logic might enjoy keeping to itself. In other words, I maintained that “God works in mysterious ways”.
She, however, would have none of it. She was on the side of Khaos. She argued for meaninglessness, for things being the way they are just by unlikely accident. “Nothing means anything, unless you want it to”, was something she said, to which I shook my head. Human beings are meaning-making creatures, that’s true. We tend to see patterns everywhere we turn our eyes. But was that really all there was to it?
But as we continued our exchange, a funny feeling started to creep over me. The best I can explain it is this: it felt like the invisible thread which kept me tethered to the ground beneath my feet was threatening to snap.
In the next moment, as I was lying underneath my blanket, ready to go to sleep, I was also hovering over my bed, looking at myself from above. Then, I was above our building. I rose and rose, until I was treated to a bird’s eye view of Bucharest, and in another blink I had the clouds beneath me. In the dark bedroom far below, she and I were still talking. And then, the almost-sphere of the Earth came into prominence, surrounded by darkness.
And in my ears were my wife’s words, along with infinite silence.
“Everything’s made up,” she whispered and, being too far away to speak back, I just nodded.
That whole day, I’d been preoccupied by something related to my work, probably either a project deadline or required reading I hadn’t managed to finish. You see, I don’t even remember what it was, but on that day it seemed the most important thing in the world. An issue of survival.
I could almost hear the cosmic clockwork laughing at my foolishness. From my seat out in space, I couldn’t see my room, or even Romania. Up there, my troubles were as distant as a speck of dust on a Sri Lankan countertop. All there was were the sun, its rays heartwarming, and the planet I called home, at once lushly decked in breathtaking azure and green, as well as cold, distant, unapproachable. “Don’t you realise, you little sack of meat and bones?” I imagined the Earth telling me. “You’re no more than a blade of grass to me. You matter far less than you think you do. So go live that puny life of yours and stop groveling. You’ve got nothing to worry about.”
Back in real life, I turned toward my wife and took her hand in mine. I finally understood what she meant.
Perhaps this stuff isn’t news to you. In fact, I suspect most people are aware of just how vast the universe is, of how much more there is up there aside from us. But I understand it can be a heavy thought, easier left ignored and shelved somewhere in the back of our minds where it cannot disturb our morning (or evening) coffee.
I urge you to stop doing that.
Now, I’m not trying to turn this blog into an advice column, or preach to you some fresh new worldview that promises YOU’LL NEVER STRESS OUT AGAIN. But lately, this “vastness” idea has been a source of comfort and reassurance for me, whenever daily burdens bared their fangs.
So let me make a little proposal.
Find a minute each day, just sixty seconds, whenever you feel most overwhelmed, and try to picture yourself beginning to float. In a slow, controlled manner, rise up further and further. See how high you can fly. And then, look down—but really look. See yourself bouncing around like a pinball in a room the size of your fingernail, or checking your watch impatiently as you wait for someone on a microscopic park bench. Or shaking your head in anger at the clumsy flight attendant who just dropped a drink on you, in an airplane so tiny you could just reach out and crush it.
How do your oh-so-troubling troubles look from up there?
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