It was cold when I opened the door for the dog. The grass, lush, green and in need of cutting by day, was a wonderland of gilded diamonds in the dawn light, sparkling and casting rainbows in the breeze. The morning smelled of autumn, though summer is at its height. I watched the sun rise, pink and gold, through the branches, rayed like a child’s drawing.
It reminded me that it is not just the source of light and heat that we take for granted every day… it a star and it, not our small, blue planet, is the centre of our solar system. One of countless such systems across a universe, or a multiverse, that we barely comprehend.
Were we to board a ship that sailed the blackness of interstellar space, our little planet would soon disappear, its reflected light fading into nothingness. Yet the sun would remain for a while, another pinhole in Heaven’s floor… one small jewel of the night amongst uncountable others… while time and distance would cease to have meaning.
By accident or some grand design, our home just happens to be at the right place in the planetary dance for life as we know it to be sustained. Or perhaps, life arose here because Earth was in the right place. A fine distinction. Should some ship one day carry us beyond the stars we know, would we even recognise other forms of life unless they fit our definitions? Would they recognise, or even see us? Or would our interactions seem as strange and fanciful as a visit from the Fae, where life forms alien to each other perceive each other but dimly through a veil of unreality?
Glimpsing that vastness, even just for an instant, puts life’s problems in perspective. It may not make living through them any easier, because we, and our focus, are here and now. But it is a good reminder that the whole of human life, with all its joys, sorrows and challenges, from the first Man to the last, will leave barely a speck of dust on the surface of existence, a ghostly echo in its dreams.
Does that mean we do not have to try? That our lives are pointless or our actions without consequence? We are part of something so vast that the events of our daily lives might seem insignificant, and in some ways that is true. It matters little, when measured against the backdrop of infinity, that we choose toast or coffee for breakfast. And yet, every choice we make, every word we speak, every action we take will irrevocably change and shape the whole of existence forever.
“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future,” wrote Tolkien. Together, we are writing humanity’s story… what part we play and what mark we leave upon its pages is up to us.