We’re not that big. And in the grand scheme of things, we are actually pretty insignificant*. Often when Em and I go to the beach we will spend at least a few moments looking out over the water and mentioning how vast it is, and how much is out there, beyond us.
Recently, we had a couple of other trips that have made both of us stop to think about the [much much] bigger picture. We went to the Kennedy Space Center and to the Norton Museum of Art. Two very different places, but they both had a similar effect on us.
The Kennedy Space Museum was pretty neat. Granted, it seemed to us almost as if it was trying to be a little bit theme park-y (what do youexpect down here with Disney, Universal and a hundred other theme parks!?), but we still thought it was pretty cool.
What really struck us was the IMAX movie that they showed. It focused specifically on a mission to update the Hubble telescope, but also had a lot of really fascinating background on space in general…both what we know and don’t know about what’s “out there.” It really brought to light the fact that we are on one planet of billions, in one galaxy of billions. When you begin to think about how much is out there, it’s pretty wild. We are orbiting around one star of billions within our galaxy, the Milky Way. And the Milky Way is only one galaxy of billions, with each of those having billions and billions of stars and planets within them. That’s pretty heavy thinking with some big ideas that we don’t tend to grapple with on a day to day basis in our own lives.
Okay, so it’s pretty obvious that we seem small and possibly insignificant when you think about space and all that’s out there [and who!?], along with how old many of these galaxies and stars are (and the fact that looking into distant galaxies using the Hubble is the same as looking back in time by billions of years – before the earth was fully formed). Mind blown.
But what about the art museum…how does that fit in with our space experience? First of all, the museum does a free admission deal where residents get to come visit for free once a month. That’s pretty great that they do that. It’s also a really large and impressive collection. I’m no art buff, but I do at least recognize many big names (even if I don’t know their specific work). This place had just about every artist I had ever heard of…I mean some really impressive names. Think of a name and they probably had him or her. [The one exception was that they didn’t have one of my favorites…Dali.]
But, in terms of our “space experience” it was the second floor of the museum that got us talking and thinking. The second floor was the Asian/Chinese collection. Some of the pieces in this collection were thousands of years old; in fact, we saw the oldest piece in the museum, a pot that was in great condition and nearly 5,000 years old. The detail on this and other pieces that were also incredibly old, were outstanding. Many of the older plates, tea sets, and other decorative items were exquisite. To think that thousands of years ago there were people with incredibly limited materials and resources (by our standards) able to achieve the level of detail and consistency by hand, is absolutely amazing to us.
Again, we sort of stepped back and tried to put it all in perspective…thinking about the incredible beauty of the handmade artifacts, and also the history behind them is something we don’t always do in our daily lives. It really is absolutely mind blowing to see what people have accomplished throughout history, and think about how much history there is.
These two trips were even more eye-opening than our usual “wow, the ocean is so vast” and caused us to give a little extra thought than we normally do. It doesn’t hurt to take a second and think about how small we are in this grand scheme of things, yet also realize that every little thing that we do also contributes to that bigger picture. Pretty incredible.
*Now, I certainly don’t use “insignificant” to seem negative or to suggest that nothing we do matters or that none of us are important. I use it only as a means of perspective when it comes to the grand course of human (and non human) history, and all that is (and could be) out there in terms of the universe. These are the kind of big idea questions that we don’t tend to have the time or even the capacity to devote ourselves to…if we did we’d probably have a hard time getting anything else accomplished!