This weekend I watched “The Force Awakens” in preparation for the upcoming release of “The Last Jedi”. At the time of the writing of this article, the second trailer has 39 million views, and I’m fairly confident I account for at least 5% of those. On a related note, I think many of the suggested plot points shown in the trailer are only typical trailer diversions that don’t depict actual events the movie.
But that’s neither here nor there.
The thing is, our universe is larger than we can ever hope to comprehend, and the role we play in it is, in turn, smaller than we can ever hope to comprehend. Even the distance to our closest star (aside from the sun) is a challenging metric to grasp.
We can explain it in concepts like, “it takes light 4.22 years for light to get from our sun to the next closest”, but it’s quite difficult to visualize just how far that is. When we zoom out a bit – even staying within our own galaxy – we start working with distances that are even more abstract. For example, light 100,000 years to get from one end of The Milky Way to another.
Neither the speed of light nor long spans of time like 100,000 years are concepts that our brains (impressive in and of themselves) have developed to comprehend. Light is not like a cheetah or a car that we (most of us, at least) are able to picture in our minds, and 100,000 years ago these guys were still around…
What blows my mind is how insignificant even 100,000 years is.
That timespan only accounts for about .00078% – again, an incomprehensibly small number – of what some estimate to be the age of the universe. If the history of the universe were a year, 100,000 years would be only about 4 minutes.
The lifespan of a 75 year old would be less than 0.18 seconds.
The points I’m trying to get at here is that the universe is freaking huge, and our mere existence is quite a gift. We’ve got such a unique opportunity as a species…
…yet we’re fucking it all up!
Here’s another thing I heard this weekend – Hawaii has started practicing drills to prepare for nuclear attacks from North Korea.
Are we actually doing this right now?
Obviously, we’ve been fighting amongst ourselves pretty much since the beginning of time.
However, here’s the thing about nukes.
These weapons have the power to destroy every single one of us before we even have the chance to think about saying “bye”, “I love you”, or “I’m sorry” to the people we love.
You’re driving home from Target one day, jammin’ to some Carly Rae Jeps’, you see a bright flash of light, and then the next thing you know – darkness… or paradise, or heat, or nothing, depending on what you think happens once our hearts and brains stop.
That’s if you’re lucky enough not to die slowly in the ensuing fallout, perhaps of radiation, or of starvation or thirst because our food distribution, utilities, and supply chains have been taken completely offline.
Cyber warfare also the potential to totally take out the systems on which we depend for basic necessities.
Oh, and we’re rapidly depleting our topsoil, doing a fine job driving species extinct, killing each other over boundaries drawn and words written long before most of us were even alive, and becoming increasingly divided over things like how light reflects off of our skin and what faces and numbers are on the pieces of paper we exchange.
Sure, we’ve also got a lot of really cool stuff going on – advances in renewable energy, a resurgence in regenerative agriculture, breakthroughs in disease management, better of understanding of disease prevention, growing awareness of human rights issues, hyper loops, driver-less cars, and private space travel (apparently I’ve got a man-crush on Elon Musk).
We’ve also got art, music, flavorful food, sex, humor, plants that enhance our senses, and host of other pretty bad ass stuff.
Yet for some reason, despite how great we could make our short time here, we’re just a couple words from a couple of people away from ending it all.
You might be thinking, “Cool, Rob. The future of humanity is hanging by a thread. What am I supposed do about it? What power do I have?”
Here’s how you can help prevent Armageddon.
By no means do we have to feel the weight of changing the world on our shoulders. We can (and perhaps should) totally focus on small steps to improve the lives of those around us.
After all, how many of these enormous problems stem from the actions of individuals?
Not only does humanity as a whole have the potential to head in two completely different directions, but we as individuals on the planet face the same dichotomy of circumstances.
Some of us are getting worked up over our hand-held supercomputers not work how we want them to, or our sugar-bomb caffeinated drinks not coming out how we ordered, or waiting in line before getting a tube to fly to a destination that would have taken months to reach only a few generations back.
Others of us, however, will never get to worry about these things. We’re worrying about whether we’ll get any rice today, or be able to pay medical bills (arguably also a relatively good problem to have), or not get killed walking to fill our water bucket.
Life is NOT easy for most of us. For some us, every day is unimaginably difficult.
We’re all on this tiny rock, hurtling through space, together.
All we have is each other.
All we have is this one chance – these few short years.
We have a choice to make with every word we speak, every action we take, every vote we cast, and every dollar we spend.
Are we going to make life on Earth just a little bit more pleasant, or are we going to make life on Earth just a little bit more difficult?
Are our actions going to help enhance this brief flash of human existence, or are we going to contribute to our death spiral into oblivion?
The universe is vaster than our minds can comprehend, and our existence here is such a short, sweet gift.
The odds of us even existing – and being born in places, at times, to families, such that we could be literate – to read this article are quite slim.
Considering how small we are in the universe, how small are our problems and disagreements?
Shouldn’t we be taking every opportunity possible to count our blessings and be one of the flickers of light in this world full of increasing darkness?
Chew on that for a hot minute.
Go forth, kick ass, make it an awesome day!