By James Wadman


 

If you had removed a bristle from van Gogh’s paintbrush, would it have impacted his work? If you removed a single gigapixel from the masterpiece of our universe, would we miss it? These ideas sank in as I peered into the depths of the Andromeda galaxy, thanks to Hubble’s newest phenomenal snapshot of our universe. The pixels got smaller and smaller, the likelihood of life existing in our neighboring galaxy seemed to multiply, and my sense of wonder was enlightened. It truly makes me step back and enjoy acknowledging the opportunity we have here on earth, our temperate little patio with a spectacular view.

Are we significant? Who are we to the universe? A bristle of a paintbrush? A pixel? Our significance does not lie in our size, for we are minute creatures in a vast universe. Our significance lies in our capacity, and our capacity is infinite. If our role in the universe is to stay collectively focused on the earth, dancing amuck cycles of artificial fiascos occupied by the lethal concoction of intolerance and apathy, then perhaps we will only ever be the missing bristle in the paintbrush of a masterpiece. If we can transcend our understanding of humanity beyond the mundane and disastrous and allow ourselves to be naturally inspired by the stars instead of hiding them behind the curtains we build to distract ourselves from wonder, then the legacy that we leave behind will be one that shapes this masterpiece.

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2 thoughts on “On Andromeda

  1. John Richter

    Interesting to think about, certainly…. Some believe in a “fishbowl” mentality where we are trapped in this small space and time as creatures watched by Creator – personally I believe in the Creator’s complete preeminence on such things. Only an all powerful and Supreme being could create the intricate fabric that we are only beginning to see the weave of. The atom – for example – one of the smallest things we know of – is identical to the solar system – which are upwards amongst some of the largest things we can fathom. An oxygen atom has a nucleus with eight planetary bodies called neutrons traveling around it. So does our solar system – only we call them planets. Molecules are made when atoms share a common planetary body, like a comet shoots through different solar systems. We are beginning to understand smaller things, such as the items that make up a neutron – or quarks… . yet our minds can not fathom the eternally smaller and smaller items that travel the chain in that direction – or the eternally larger and larger chains that flow in the opposite direction. It’s possible they can grow or diminish in an infinite capacity, quarks, sub-quarks, sub-sub-quarks… and on and on into infinity. So in this theory the fabric of time and space we believe that every physical thing – from the smallest to the largest – is made of the exact same pattern. Food for thought…..

  2. James Wadman Post author

    What a great comment. I think about all this quite often, actually. In Ancient Greece the atom was hypothesized by Democritus in order to explain a unit of matter that was indivisible. Now we have made it to be the point of quantifying the even smaller subatomic particles (like you said, the neutrons and quarks), and what did we learn? Even atoms are mostly empty space. That means each time modern science attempts to find a new particle within a subatomic particle, the difficulty of finding anything increases exponentially. That’s beautiful, though, because just like you are doing it gives us an opportunity to use tools beyond just science. Instead we have the opportunity to let our mind wonder. I agree with you. There could very well be universes within us and universes too large for us to even begin to perceive.

    Thank you for your comment. It is nice to engage in dialogue on subjects like this.

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