Motivation

One of the significant memories in my life was in Writing-on-Stone, (Áísínai’pi) Provincial Park, far from any light pollution, looking up at night to see the stars. To observe the vastness of space, to feel so small and insignificant below its indifferent canopy, yet to feel awe and wonder.

Writing on Stone Provincial Park. 19 September, 2011.

Conversely, take an ordinary fungus gnat, so minuscule, so insignificant, and place it under a microscope. Who can not marvel at its complexity? To see the tiny veined wings, the minute hair-fringed and jointed legs, the many-faceted eyes… knowing that the DNA within contains a record of the history of the first life on this planet? This too is wonderful.

This is how I find meaning in life. By nature and nurture, I am a loner, an introvert who is not endlessly cheerful and positive. I believe there is no purpose to the universe and no ultimate meaning to life. Nevertheless, I find so much in the wide world that is fascinating and beautiful, that even in my darkest moments I cannot consider ending early this short time I have on earth.

The background of space is black. Thousands of galaxies appear all across the view. Their shapes and colors vary. Some are various shades of orange, others are white. Most stars appear blue, and are sometimes as large as more distant galaxies that appear next to them. A very bright star is just above and left of center. It has eight bright blue, long diffraction spikes. Between 4 o’clock and 6 o’clock in its spikes are several very bright galaxies. A group of three are in the middle, and two are closer to 4 o’clock. These galaxies are part of the galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, and they are warping the appearances of galaxies seen around them. Long orange arcs appear at left and right toward the center.
The first image from the James Webb Telescope. (Courtesy NASA)

We are born out of the blossoming universe. We, today, are the elect, for good or ill, who have survived in this stream of life for millions of years, passing through the great filter of evolution. We have one span of being, one chance, one brief, unique moment in time to appreciate life and ponder what that means before we are re-assimilated into the vastness.

Children of the Sea, Jozef Israëls, 1872. Rijksmuseum.

This is the wonder of a limited lifetime in an infinite universe, remembering always that the choices we make as individuals and societies affect all those around us, including the lives of our children and their descendants, who also deserve a chance to relish their existence. Do no harm.

The universe, and our little corner of life in it, is, indeed, awe-full. How we as individuals—past and present—explore and express that awe is worth sharing.

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