Starstuff

When I am alone, standing in the cool wind of a California evening, I can look up and see the universe. I can picture its vastness and I can feel my smallness. I am a speck upon a speck,  existing for less than an instant in a deep and wondrous sea. I know my time is short, shorter than I could ever have guessed when it began. I know that I will never see a great many of my visions for humanity realized, and I understand that I will never find many of the answers to questions which I can imagine.

How small the world is. How insignificant our greatest works as a species. How bold and arrogant we have become in only a few shaky first steps.

And yet, as I contemplate the world through the lens of scientific understanding I am given divine insight. I am elevated beyond my own meager stature.  I stand not upon the shoulders of Giants, but rather the backs of countless men and women as small and insignificant as I. How much they accomplished. How much they knew was possible, and how much they too knew they would never see. How much they would never know.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the work they have done for me. I am joyous for the work I have done and am yet to do. I am deeply and grievously pained by the work I will never see completed.

Yet my view from here is breathtaking. I can lose myself in the torrent of knowledge, of which I am a living part. I can close my eyes and see the machinations of the universe. The movement of the stars and the vibrations of atoms, each dancing, part of a symphony of sublime complexity in my mind.

How can the pettiness of our species touch me here? How can I even relate to them. I am no longer one of them, the crawling and scrounging beasts of the earth. With this clarity I can lay my body in the dust and become the very atoms that once burned in the hearts of long dead stars.

I am elevated by knowledge. As if sitting upon a hill and looking down upon a garden maze, the world is made plain. And yet, I am very alone. There are few who choose to make the difficult trek to this altitude. There are precious few who choose to embrace knowledge. And there is hostility. Hostility from those still trapped below, still trapped in ignorance. Some days I pity them, some days I am angry, most days I fear them. I have seen the way knowledge and curiosity are rewarded. Scientists branded heretics and blasphemers, and sentenced by ignorant mobs.

One day mankind will finally be able to make the hike up and out of darkness, when more people will be scientifically educated than those who are not, on that day we will finally be able to take our first step out of infancy.

That day is a long way off. I will be long dead, but the single thread I will have woven into the tapestry of our understanding of the universe, will remain. In this way I too shall remain, even as my unique pattern is lost for eternity, back into the dust of the cosmos.

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