Once upon a time, I heard that we look at the stars and feel an existential curiosity about who we are because we are, at least to a degree, made up of actual stardust. Everything in the universe contains traces of cosmic explosions, and being these conscious creatures, we feel a physiological connection when we look into outer space (of course, there are other, more popular theories about where we came from and how we got here too).
“Everything we are and everything in the universe and on Earth originated from stardust, and it continually floats through us even today.”– Living With The Stars by Karel & Iris Schrijver
When is the last time you were able to see the night sky without light pollution? Most of us live in urban areas, which makes it difficult to get the full effect, but if I’m ever lucky enough to be outside at night where there is low artificial lighting, I make it a point to spend some time looking up.
“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”
The mystery and the magnitude of space are a humbling reminder that a lot of my day to day concerns aren’t that big of a deal. In other words, when I think about outer space, it ironically brings me back down to earth. Not only do my problems get smaller, but my achievements do too (it’s weird how it works both ways like that). This perspective helps me get back on the horse when I fall off, but it also helps me stay focused and keep grinding when I catch a Win. That’s what I mean by “outer space is humbling” – it keeps me centered, and thats how I want to live.
If 85% of the things that we worry about never happen, then why do we spend so much time and energy worrying about things?
I can relate to the first British person in space, Helen Sharman, who said that her “One true love is mountains. Something about their grandeur makes my life and its problems insignificant”. My first time going to Colorado to visit the college campus was the first time I ever saw real mountains. It blew my mind that such large pieces of the earth can slam together violently and create a beautiful range of massive land-waves.
Being in space taught me that it’s people, not material goods, which truly matter. Up there we had all we needed to survive: the right temperature, food and drink, safety. I gave no thought to the physical items I owned on earth Earth. When we flew over specific parts of the globe, it was always our loved ones we thought of down below us.Helen Sharman, January 2020
Next time you find yourself overthinking or feeling stressed, try to remember just how small we actually are. Looking up at the sky makes it easier. This series of images that begin with a 1970’s Steve Irwin lookin’-dude (RIP) does a good job at illustrating our size relative to the universe.
This picture (below) represents 1 light year – the distance that would take 1 year to cover while traveling at the maximum speed of light. How big do you feel?
The above photographs are stills from a short film named The Powers of Ten (1977). Directed by Charles and Ray Eames
A few cool links
- This guy posts sick space photos on instagram that he takes with his own equipment
- This is an animated representation of all the multi-planet systems discovered in the Milky Way galaxy by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope as of Oct. 30, 2018
- This book, written by an Astrophysicist and his wife, who is a pathology professor at Stanford University describe how the human body is connected to the life cycles of the Earth, planets, and stars
- Helen Sharman interview via The Guardian