One of the many things I inherited from my dad was a love for science. For someone who doesn’t fully understand exactly what’s happening in chemical or physical reactions, to me it’s almost magic and that is so exciting to witness. This love was transferred to the realms of science fiction with shows like Star Trek, Stargate-SG1, and Star Wars (I’m sensing a theme here…) and books like Ender’s Game. I was fascinated by a world that wasn’t necessarily bound by the laws of nature.
Because of this, I watch a lot of scientific documentaries on Netflix. My favorite happens to be How The Universe Works. It’s ten episodes that discuss subjects from the formation of black holes out of supernovas, to how the moon came to be in earth’s orbit, to the dark matter that keeps every universe from spinning apart. I cling to the edge of my seat during these documentaries. I guess it’s the nerd in me, but I get super jazzed when I realize exactly what had to take place in order for me to be here, alive today.
And that brings me to how space keeps me awake at night. One night, my friend Taekia and I were hanging out and we started to watch a series that explained all the different ways earth could be destroyed. This included everything from being knocked out of orbit to being swallowed by a black hole. And as I watched, I suddenly realized how many small little things had to happen in the cycle of the universe for the human race and the earth as we know it to exist.
This about it; first the big bang happened. Then a bunch of elements had to form stars that gave off heat while rocks had to slam into each other to create bigger rocks and then planets. Our earth somehow found the sweet spot in the orbit around our sun and formed an atmosphere with habitable conditions, which allowed plants to grow. Single-celled organisms soon evolved into reptiles and animals, and then into homosapiens. Then humans crawled out of the cave, discovered fire and built communities and art. And on top of all these amazing things that lead to the earth as we know it today, your parents had to have sex at the exact right time so you could exist. It blows my freaking mind. I mentioned this thought to Taekia and she said, “Yeah I know right. You’re a goddamn miracle.”
In so many ways she’s right. There are so many ways that the formation of the earth could have gone wrong. A touch out of orbit or the absence of a magnetic field would have destroyed all possibility of human existence. Sometimes I just lay in my bed in awe of how the universe works (see what I did there) and how it came to be. But it also helps to put all the crappy days and thoughts I have into perspective.
I have always had a problem with self-doubt and self-loathing. I worry about my impact in society and whether I am making a difference. I think about the life I am leading and how it’s so different from everyone else’s that sometimes I get paralyzed by all the lives I’m not living. I want to live a life that matters but I also want to be remembered. Thinking about how the universe works (again) can sometimes be so overwhelming that it makes me wonder if any of it matters at all.
But then I am reminded of a great quote from the TV show Angel, a spinoff of Buffy. Angel says, “If nothing we do matters, than all that matters is what we do.” So I am going to take this love of science and the universe and continue to let it inspire me so that when I am feeling particularly downtrodden, I’ll remember what it took to get me here, and that sometimes just being alive is enough.