It’s Big Out There

Allow me to reminisce one of my fonder memories. Alone, on a beach, in the dead of night and the dead of winter. And I mean alone– I doubt you could catch a single pulse within a mile radius of my own that night. Shriveled and shaking on my long chair, I was only permitted to steal glances at the sky above me, courtesy of a particularly unforgiving wind that didn’t quite seem to appreciate my being there. But, ever the soldier, I just about braved the cold long enough to tell you that the sky truly was wonderful that night.

Stars- I’m a sucker for them. My neck hurts on long walks and my biggest incentive to get away from urbanity is the opportunity to draw up a constellation or two, as per my aforementioned trip to the beach. This obsession has been relatively recent, starting only when I was old enough to grasp the whole scale of things, and how we’d be utterly awestruck at them if they didn’t come out every night. That’s not to say that I don’t thank my lucky stars that they do.

To me, it’s not necessarily how they look. I mean, I could plaster glow-in-the-dark stickers all over my ceiling and have a grand old time. No, it’s not the appearance. What do you feel when you look at a star? My answer to that would happen to be the exact reason to why I’ve been rambling all this time. Rest easy, there is a point to all this.

Up until that night I’d tell you that training my eye on a certain star would excite me, dumbfound me and absolutely terrify me in equal amounts. A million questions of how and why would pry their way out of dusty old boxes in back of my mind where I normally prefer to keep them, a mind simply incapable of providing half an answer. Stars terrified me because they represent distance and size- two things that the combination of which lays the very groundwork of that which scares mankind the most: a lack of understanding.

We don’t know what’s up there. It’s dark and it’s infinite and it makes our heads hurt. We try and we’ll keep on doing so until we fizzle out of existence, trying to figure it out, likely without making so much as a scratch in the proverbial paint by the time we’re done. And the reason we’ll persist with such futility is that figuring things out is what gives this race a purpose, and frankly we’re quite good at it. We’ve done a wonderful job “conquering” this planet, so to speak- to start out with sticks and stones and end up with self-driving cars is admittedly pretty great progress. But I’m beginning to fear that we don’t know when to stop.

I’ve always joked that we should be more like dogs- just plain blissful. It’s that quip which bestowed upon me a realization: that said happiness stems from what we vilify- a simple lack of comprehension of a world much bigger than them. Primal emotion is what they live on, and it’s that absolute focus on what’s here and what’s now that gives them perhaps their sole yet most significant superiority over us: the ability to live with unadulterated happiness. See, dogs don’t care about why and how.

I risk sounding like a quitter when I say that maybe we should give in to a universe that is oh-so-clearly out of our reach. We’ve thought and thought and thought about so many possibilities- are we the only ones here? Does any of this mean anything? But have we once asked that there might be the slimmest possibility that we weren’t meant to ask? Perhaps oblivion shouldn’t scare the hell out of us the way it does. Perhaps not understanding it all is okay.

About that night, I neglected to tell you the most important part- the part where, for the first time in my life, staring at the stars was only accompanied by one feeling: happiness.