Space is vast. Or is “vast” a term for wheat fields? Can it really be called upon when discussing the universe?
“Infinite” is the closest word we have in the English language that offers a vague sketch of the concept. It’s an eight-letter word serving as a placeholder for what we could never imagine, quantify, or hold. Like a Greek letter in math equation.
Sending the Universe Down a Bath Drain
It’s so big. We as humans can only encapsulate an unending universe by poking holes in it. Black holes. Invisible, irresistible whirlpools as repositories that vacuum up every piece of infinity so that our minds can locate and tag it. Perhaps lassoing the infinity, pulling the reins a bit on it’s expansion provides comfort. Ceaseless and empty cavities trigger primal fears in most of us primates.
These black holes are a form of shorthand. At least in theory they have a shape. In our heads they lead somewhere. A destination. Perhaps a loop. (We know they are real, but is it possible we’ve personified black holes to an unreliable point so they fit neatly into textbooks?)
At the outlet of that black hole, presumably a door that leads to another room full of space. And then, more doors, more rooms infinitely. Forever there are entryways. This is what we imagine anyway, so our minds have a brand of infinity they can handle, by compartmentalizing we absorb a false echo of infinity. At least it’s a start.
Right now our “infinity” is just a hall of mirrors. Our brains can’t absorb any more than that.
-Scott must’ve said this at some point
In our desperation to fill a void we can’t fathom, we allow for these cavities to swirl into existence and collect the unknown. Forming tangible rest stops for our brains as they attempt to encapsulate the unending. Except, of course those black holes are a form of nothingness themselves. Striping the essence from things. Shredding the data that creates our four dimensions.
Front Row Seat to the Stars
What do we do with all of this?
When we peer through the raw heavens it’s a foreboding blackness. Our instinct is to interpret the emptiness as a negative thing, something to fear. A cold, dark night away from the protection of a cave with a glowing campfire inside.
Perhaps the eeriness of a mall after it’s closed. A place we intuitively know should be filled with people. And when we find it empty and yet the stores, the food courts, the frozen escalators remain, it’s a bit creepy.
And so too the stars. A wispy nebula or a star and its planetary children of coagulated dust. Why is it there if there’s no one to observe when a sun settles down. Calms enough to allow thick and protective atmospheres to form or when a tired star finally releases itself?
A theater after or before a show. Those empty seats, folded up. Machined rows or tessellations constructed, not organic, but related. There should be people in those seats, looking back at you. But the chair bottoms are on springs, to fold up when no one is using them. A state of waiting for an arrival or return. And so the galaxies.
Every organic tessellation, pattern and formula waiting for a being to trigger or spark. Yet, that orrery spins on with no audience. No audience we can hear or see or detect anyhow.
A Cold, Cold Vacuum
Should we be wondering why we exist on the head of a pin, surrounded by the crushing physics of cold vacuum? A pistachio shell on an endless ocean. Move a toe out in any direction and almost assuredly watch it freeze, decompress, evaporate.
Or do we smile in the warmth of a spring day? Blissfully happy that for some unexplained reason we’ve been given a front row seat to watch the spin of a universe that whirls on an axis we may never find.
It’s a universe that’s strangely color-coded. A small, insignificant bandwidth that, suspiciously, our eyes are adjusted to see. Perhaps the colors we rely on to designate the elements that migrate across the vacuum are there only for us, and our pets, letting us create a palette for a reality we have little to do with. A reflection.
Remember How You Got Here
It’s all a bit intimidating. But remember how you got here. You arrived on a muddy, dusty planet much smaller than you are now with no way to protect yourself. With no way to feed yourself, find water. Run a diagnostic on a wonky transport ship to Mars. Thin skin without a single defense against the deepness of space, and yet, here you are. On a grassy hill monitoring the amber heart of the Scorpius Constellation.
You made it this far and have the privilege to watch this workshop above, testing out what would happen if a set of parameters were allowed to proliferate and reset endlessly.
Our minds boggle at the future calamity that we are sure will occur, but we rarely look back in relief at the calamity that we’ve somehow survived. I’ll always remember where I was when the big bang went off. I remember the hashtag floating around soon after. #bigbangfourteenbillionseasonsandamovie. How may times have we come through something we didn’t think we would? Only to get through it and, instead of celebrating, move on to the next needless worry.
Take time to note the victories, even those billions of years in the rearview mirror. The times when the vacuum didn’t swallow an entire species. When physics held that burning nebula or that phasing quasar at a safe distance. When that meeting at work didn’t spell the doom you expected. When the universe held your seat without tacked-on fees and surcharges.
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