This week we are going to explore feeling big and small at the same time. So let's dive in and find out if:
The Universe Is Indifferent!
In wake of the death of one of my heroes, Stephen Hawking, I thought I would expand this weeks topic beyond the perspective of worldly problems. We can only attempt to understand the universe(s) and their size but trying to gives us some perspective. When I look up at the stars, or listen to one of my favorite cosmologists, I always get this feeling that I am both small, and large at the same time. Significant and insignificant.
Is it possible to feel both? Is one more right than the other?
We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special. - Stephen Hawking
Do you ever wrestle between two feelings?
The first one being that our problems are HUGE and what we do has the potential to affect the universe?
The second being that you are so insignificant that you could die tomorrow and the world would not miss a beat?
We also see this is other people. We see those that are so wrapped up in themselves that they forget there is a whole world outside of their reality. We also see people that don’t know their own potential or lack the confidence to make something because they think their existence is futile.
So which one is it? Are we beautiful individuals with the potential to make a difference? Or are we merely a spec of organic material on a lonely planet floating through a universe we have no effect on? Should we feel big, or small?
Fucking BOTH!!! It’s important to feel both big and small! Each perspective can allow us to escape the depressing depths of the other.
- Feeling Big is empowering.
- Feeling Small is humbling.
- Having perspective keeps us sane.
I believe everyone should have a broad picture of how the universe operates and our place in it. It is a basic human desire. And it also puts our worries in perspective. - Stephen Hawking
How to feel big:
This one comes easily to almost everyone in the human race. By design, our default mindset is that we are the center of our own universe. This is because we are all beings driven by primal urges that put our own self-interest first for our survival’s sake. Also, we can try to imagine the world from other people's perspective, but we will never get it right because we cannot remove ourselves from reality. Our problems are the universes because we are the universe
That being said, it's important to feel big. Feel like you can make a difference, find meaning, find purpose. You can always make a difference, even if it is just for one person one time. I suggest starting there.
Start with something you can control. Help one person, change one small thing either in yourself or in the world around you and then go from there! This will empower you, make you feel larger than life.
One of the most important things you can do for longer term results is find your place in a community. Whether it is becoming the treasurer of your local chess club, finding a good group of friends to go fishing with, or something more major like becoming a parent; its important to find purpose within a community. This will give you lasting results of empowerment and has even been proven to make people live longer.
This is a shot of the night sky. The next photo is what we found when we pointed the Hubble Telescope at that empty patch of sky. The farthest we have ever seen into the universe.
How To Feel Small:
Just look up. Keep looking up. Look beyond the stars and into the darkness. Contemplate all that exists in that small patch of sky where we see nothing. Think about all the things we will never experience, all the beauty we can never appreciate. Here’s some math to help.
We are floating around a star, in a galaxy with 100 billion other stars in it. There are about 100 billion other galaxies that we know about. That means there are 100 billion trillion stars that have untold amounts of planets orbiting them all with the potential we have on our lonely planet. Still feeling special? You aren't even close to the center of a universe that is 93 billion light-years across.
Some say that is depressing or makes it hard to feel like we matter at all. The universe doesn’t care about your problems, it is entirely indifferent to them actually. This is true, but it shouldn’t be depressing it should be humbling.
Just because the universe doesn’t care about our problems, it doesn't mean they are not real. When something is affecting you deeply, just look up at the stars. Remember the depth of the universe and how many things had to happen for you to even be here, feeling what you are feeling. Feeling small means being grateful. If you know the numbers, you know how lucky you are to even exist at all! Feeling small comes from remembering how big the universe actually is, and knowing that being able to experience any part of it is a gift.
If you understand the universe, you control it, in a way. - Stephen Hawking
Once you understand these two things you can actually start to make an impact, feel important and then at the same time be humble and grounded to the fact that there is more to the universe than just you.
Why it's important:
We can get so wrapped up in our own lives we can forget about what lies beyond ourselves. We can feel so insignificant that it feels like no one cares about us and our very existence is futile.
The best thing to do is get the benefits from both of these perspectives and use them to pull us away from the dangers of thinking of yourself is too big or too small. The world is not out to get you and it will do nothing for us. It's up to us to experience it, make the best of it, and have an effect on it in a positive way, however we can.
Although the universe is big and indifferent to us, we still exist within it. We are literally the universe experiencing itself from a subjective view. Our existence is a testament to how big and powerful the universe actually is.
To conclude I want to add in the last quote from Stephen Hawking that both contradicts and summarizes the thoughts in this article.
The universe is not indifferent to our existence - it depends on it.
- Stephen Hawking
The universe depends on us to experience it. To explore it. To try and comprehend it. We can make a difference, all we have to do is try our best to make our short existence as significant and positive as we can before we return to stardust.