Horizon


I was driving home yesterday, when I came to a rise in the road.  The sky was startling and clear.  I could see what seemed like all of Virginia spread before me, along this Reston Parkway corridor. My mind was pulled immediately to how utterly and completely small I am.

At my greatest height, I was 6’7″ (2 meters). This height is significant, because it is as tall (or taller) than 99% of the World’s population.  Yet if I managed to lay 800 people my size end-to-end along the road, all these people still wouldn’t have covered even one mile. They would also be flattened by cars because metropolitan Washington DC drivers aren’t known for their courtesy, but my point remains. We are small.  I am dwarfed by even the smallest buildings along the corridor.  If I started walking at a leisurely pace, it would take me 20 minutes to say hello to those 800 Brian-sized people.

I am from Oregon. The shortest route to my home town is 2,960 miles from my front door. It’s 93 million miles to the central star of our solar system (not that I have any earning to visit). Our solar system is tiny by cosmic standards. The end to our universe is undiscovered, of course, but in 2009, astronomers detected a gamma pulse from a dying star (they named it GRB 090429B, obviously thinking of all the sexy publicity such a name would bring them). This object is 13.14 billion light years away. That’s 77,243,487,600,000 miles, in case you wondered. And I could see, from my rise on the road in Reston, maybe 10 miles.

Our bigness is but a speck. We are insignificant in terms of size.

We need to be reminded of our size sometimes. The next time I think I’m big news, when I decide to blog that my feet hurt, or that I washed a cricket down the shower drain, or that I managed to run three whole miles, remind me of this blog (four would be pretty stinking amazing, so you can lay off the reminding at that point).

We all need to be reminded of our place sometimes. When we get too big for our tiny stupid pants we do giant stupid things. We think we’re in charge of this universe of ours. We think we can sit on the pedestal as lords of all Creation. We reach the conclusion that we are the only things that can possibly matter “out there.”

So, let’s don’t do that, hmmmkay? We’re small. I need to go make coffee for more small people in a moment, but I don’t think I’ll remind any of our customers. It doesn’t sit well before their first caffeine fix of the day.

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2 thoughts on “Horizon”

  1. A color photo of the earth coming out from our moon’s equator hangs on my living room wall to remind of the smallness of things. Sometimes, just as I’m about to launch into a post-work/commute complaint, the picture catches my eye and saves my wife from another whinge fest.

    When I took the picture for framing, I made the gal at the art shop repeat my directions on how the picture should hang (I wanted it to be the same as the scene presented itself to the Apollo 8 astronauts as they orbited the moon’s equator–the surface of the moon vertical, not horizontal), emphasizing the way it was taken. She repeated my instructions, and then asked me if I had taken the photo. I smiled politely and replied that I hadn’t been to the moon yet and that I was only a toddler when the photo was taken.

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