Saturday, October 21, 2006

And another thing...

Imagine you're outside on a starlit night with a friend. You hand them a penny and ask them to walk 20 metres away, stop and hold the coin up against the sky. The coin, if you could see it at all, would barely register as a pinprick in the total night sky, but supposing that you were able to magnify that miniscule little dot of sky. What would you see?

The Hubble telescope has done exactly that and the result is awesome:

Within that tiny little spec of darkness, there are hundreds of galaxies. Not stars but galaxies! It makes me feel very small and puts all of our human vanities into perspective. I know that it sounds ridiculous but I often feel depressed by the fact that all of our achievements will ultimately disappear in a puff of cosmic smoke. No more Beethoven, Picasso, Venice, Dickens, Leonardo Da Vinci or Plato. The universe will continue without us.

How stupid of me to worry about events that may or may not take place in a few billion years time, but I can't stop it. Is it a mild form of apeirophobia - the fear of infinity?


Beth Roland said...

The van is now a very glossy shade of black!

That head-exploding dimensioness, irrelevance of time and unknowability make me feel safe, comforted and liberated! The more insignificant it all seems, the more inspired I feel to take joy in Ein Deutsches Requiem, the Alhambra and all the other momentary expressions of existence and to relish the freedom from responsibility and significance. The bearable lightness of being. If it turned out that what we've mapped of space turned out to be almost-at-the-edges, even given that it's quite a lot, I'd be disappointed.
A few years ago I got to go out into the Mohave desert and had the same feeling, like a homecoming. I had to be constantly restrained from trying to walk further and further out into nowhere. If you set off walking away from the earth and kept going, to infinity and beyond, would you eventually see earth bobbing over the horizon again?
Your posts are cosmic quality : )

Collapse by Jared Diamond?

Steerforth said...

One of the best things about blogging is receiving insightful and thought-provoking observations like yours.

I'm sorry to hear about the van. I prefer green.