The other night, I took Oliver out for a walk and, as the streetlights danced off the wet pavement, I thought about how at peace I was. Alone with the hound at four in the morning, I didn't feel weighted down by bills, emotions, what-ifs or any of the other things that try to hold me back on a day-to-day basis. As we walked, I found my eyes straying up to the sky which was riddled with stars that formed constellations I pretended to know, like Ursa Major and Minor and Orion. As I tried to pluck Polaris out from the tiny flecks, I also searched for the moon.
The last couple of mornings (or what most people would call night), I hadn't been able to find it. This morning wasn't an exception and, as I came up empty once again, I laughed because I imagined we were playing an intergalactic game of hide and go seek.
Where in the vast night sky could the moon possibly be hiding?
And I pictured the moon tip-toeing out of the Milky Way into another galaxy, perhaps our sister galaxy Andromeda, and crouching down behind a sofa. The thought amused me, because it's silly, juvenile even, except underneath the seemingly simplistic surface there was another question begging to be asked.
What exactly is out there?
In Stephen Hawking's A Briefer History of Time, it talks about the Universe and how it is ever-expanding. It presents the ideas of quantum mechanics, string theory and, the hugely debated, Big Bang Theory. Hugely debated, because, if true, it discounts religious beliefs of how the world was created, namely God throwing our existence together in only seven days. People the world over cling to the word 'theory', insisting it is not fact.
Well, of course it isn't fact. At this point, we can only hypothesize and theorize over how the Universe began, since we cannot travel back in time to witness it for ourselves. Unless they've developed a time machine and have been holding it secret, which I wouldn't be surprised over. Can you imagine the mess we'd create if everyone could go back in time? Humans can be so silly, especially when we believe things would be better if we could change our past. When will we learn it's all about the present?
The thing is, the Big Bang is a well-tested scientific theory, widely accepted because it is the most accurate, and comprehensive, explanation for the phenomenas astronomers have observed. But this blog isn't about the Big Bang. Staring up at the sky, in search of the luminous moon that was playing shy, I contemplated the idea of infinity.
For the universe to keep growing, it must be infinite, as it has no end. The idea of being boundless is something humans have a hard time grasping. Often when people hear about the hundred billion galaxies that comprise the Universe they feel suffocated by the idea of how massive it is. To put it plainly, the vast majority of us have a hard time simply comprehending size of universe, let alone all that it holds.
Not long ago, I posted a blog about feeling insignificant, especially when looking up at the night sky and seeing how vast, and perfect, it is. Now, feeling infinitesimal shouldn't hollow you out or make you sad. This smallness has never left me feeling empty or forgotten, but rather reassured that something else is going on. Something bigger than me, and perhaps bigger than the Universe itself.
I listened to the wind rustling the trees, allowing the sound to whisper through my body, and I questioned what existed beyond. You see, I thought about the Big Bang and kept wondering, what was before? And, as the Universe expands, where is it expanding to? Will it eventually hit a wall? If so, what's on the other side of that wall? Can there be nothing? And if there can, is nothing gradually being eaten up by our solar system?
Of course, these questions are mind-boggling, and not ones you can find answers to in text books or online. Limitlessness can cause people to panic, especially since we are raised to believe that we are limited. We are taught the circle of life in which we are born, exist for a spell and then we die. As we age, we are constantly confronted by thoughts of our own mortality and it is ingrained in us to fear death, to fear the end.
But what if there is no end? What if our souls are like the universe? Ever-expanding and infinite.
What then? Would fear cease to exist?
Then, as Oliver pulled on the leash, eager to get back into the warmth of his bed, I wondered how my thoughts transitioned from the moon hiding behind a couch to what exists beyond our universe and inside us all. And people wonder why I don't do drugs.
My thoughts are surreal enough on their own.
Wildwood by Jan Needle reviewed by Sandra Horn
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