One of the significant memories in my life took place 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, I have experienced other sources of pleasure when looking at the complex world of invertebrates. Take an ordinary (and sometimes irritating) fungus gnat, which is 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.
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 moved along with this torrential river of life, passing through the great filter of evolution. We have one span of being, one chance, one brief, unique moment 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 life around us, including the lives of our children and their descendants, who also deserve a chance to relish their brief existence in their own way.

(last revised 2023-01-22)

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