Perspective

Messier 5

From time to time my natural balance, especially my mental balance, gets out of whack. Some in my family argue this is increasingly frequent. To solve this, I sometimes turn to images and thoughts about the vast emptiness of the universe.

Thinking about this and looking at images like this one leads me to conclude that my imbalance is absolutely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. It’s not just the mind boggling expanse of distance and time, but the forces at work that allow us to observe and draw conclusions about what we see.

Science has determined that the universe as we know it has been here for about 13.5 billion years. Whew. Our sun became one of trillions of stars about 5 billion years ago. On this scale my 72 years on this small rocky planet means very little. Nevertheless, I’m fascinated by the chance that out there somewhere, is another sentient being with similar thoughts.

The globular cluster shown in this picture includes hundreds of thousands of stars, many of them older than our sun. If recent observations are right, many if not most of them have planets, some of which are likely to be similar in size and makeup as our rocky planet. Given the sheer numbers, it’s entirely possible.

Further thought reveals that this cluster of stars is actually in our galaxy. Which, given the number of galaxies in the universe, suggests there are at least a gazillion planets out there, some of which resemble ours. All of this helps settle me down, helping me better understand that the issues I face, along with those of my family and friends, are insignificant. Which in turn helps me manage the anxiety and stress that surfaces almost every day.

I no longer worry about being a grumpy old fart, or whether I’m dressed properly. It’s essentially irrelevant, except to the extent it bothers those around me whose respect and love helps sustain me, along with the occassional dose of reality in the form of images of the universe.

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