Disclaimer: I’m a writer, not a scientist, but I try.
There are at least 200 billion stars in our galaxy. Can you even wrap your head around that number? I can’t. I go outside at night and watch the few that are visible through the Disney-Area light pollution. There’s Orion, easy to find. There’s that really bright one-wait, that’s not a star, that’s Venus. OH WOW! Is that a shooting star?! Wait, no…airplane. The night sky is incomprehensibly beautiful, even the weak version we get here in Orlando. It’s like something out of a surrealist painting, something that is not supposed to be real but by some miracle of science, is.
So just to bring everybody down a bit, I should point out that a great deal of the stars we gaze at are long dead. To me at least, that’s almost tragic. I don’t know, can you mourn a flaming ball of gas? I suppose. But, where I am on Earth, it isn’t dead yet. I stand here watching a star that seems very much alive, but at its point in space-time it is already gone. It’s like crying because you know that we are all the helpless victims of entropy, constantly and slowly decaying, even if we are solid and full of life in the present moment.
But even if the sky is full of dying stars, it’s still full of living ones. Living stars and meteors and planets and dwarf planets(love ya Pluto)and everything that we have yet to discover. People have said it before, but compared to all that vastness, what am I? A speck on a rock that will be forgotten someday. The protagonist in my own story, but nothing to almost every human alive. It’s so easy to say that. To say that I am nothing, we are nothing, but it’s wrong. We are everything. And I mean I’m not just trying to think positive or whatever, I mean literally, scientifically, everything. Break everything down to an atomic level, we’ve all got our protons and neutrons running around. Carl Sagan said, “We are made of starstuff”, because the basic elements that construct the stars in space, construct us too. So, I don’t look at the sky and sense my unimportance in its endlessness, I feel at peace, I see a place of belonging.