Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Big Empty

So, are you scared? Is the world too big for you, does it overwhelm you with its complexity.Yes? Well then, I suggest you stay far, far away from telescopes and microscopes.

The scale of the universe in which we live, from the outer reaches of observable interstellar space 46.5 billion lights years away to the Plank length infinitesimal minuteness of the subatomic realm is vast almost beyond comprehension. We as a species are not equipped to observe these extremes without resorting to instruments that enhance our senses to superhuman levels. And at the very outer edges of the largest and the smallest we have to rely on math to map and explain what is there. Those edges at present are beyond our ability to detect directly.

How do we cope with this near infinity that surrounds us? One option is to make stuff up, to invent a wise and benevolent entity that not only understands it all but is somehow responsible for it all. Then all one has to do is wrap one's self up in the warm security blanket of revealed wisdom to feel safe. Of course one has to ignore the fact that the blanket no longer stretches to cover lightning, earthquakes, floods and plagues. Or that the parts that used to cover the motions of the stars and planets, the seasons and eclipses are now just frayed holes. "Fine, fine." one could say "Static electricity, plate tectonics, the water cycle and germs are just the ways that our entity does things." But here's the rub, none of these things requires an entity to sustain them. They work just fine all by themselves. As our body of knowledge grows larger and larger the security blanket gets smaller and smaller until one is left twisting and turning, pulling the blanket here and there in a futile attempt to hide from the reality in which we live.

It's a vast, hostile universe in which we live, one that cares nothing for you or me. Less than nothing really, because that phrase "it cares nothing" is misleading. There is nothing there that is capable of caring one way or the other. And therein lies the joy.

You see, we're not alone and we're not helpless. We have each other and that's enough, more than enough. Don't believe me? Take someone you love by the hand, look in their eyes and say "I'm here." How big is the universe at that moment? How scary? Do you need your ragged and fading security blanket to warm you as arms, alive and real, hold you?

We're all together in the big empty and it's going to be alright.