Life on a Little Blue Dot

Space exploration is viewed by many people as a wasteful endeavor. The money and effort spent going to the moon and Mars and beyond, they believe, should be spent solving problems of poverty, climate change, etc., etc. Though I understand that perspective, I do not share it. Space exploration has the potential of revealing extraordinary secrets of the universe, many of which might prove valuable in solving the terrestrial problems that face humankind—and every other creature that shares the planet with us. I envy the astronauts and cosmonauts and scientists and astronomers who can see beyond the boundaries of our solar system and our galaxy. For brief moments, they can escape the shackles of gravity and see at least a little of what’s “out there.” They can escape, for a while, the mess we have made of and on this planet. They may find answers we have been seeking for centuries and longer. Their efforts are worth the time and expense dedicated to expanding our knowledge of a limitless universe.


One hundred years from now—and probably much, much sooner—no one will remember anything about me and my life. Thinking about that reality puts in perspective everything I think is important today. The uncomfortable reality is that, on an individual and personal basis, nothing matters. Our brief impact on the world, as miniscule as it is in our lifetimes, becomes far less than microscopic when considered on a timeline that stretches millions and millions of years. Yet that reality does not deter us—me, at least—from thinking and wondering and attempting to understand the inexplicable. Even when we know we do not matter, we pretend we do. If we did not pretend we mattered, our brief time on this planet would be utterly wasted.


Spending several days almost entirely by myself—venturing out daily only to check the mailbox and to have brief encounters with other people a few times—reminds me how much I need solitude. Extended time alone relieves me of the exhaustion that social engagement brings about. But until I have the experience of being alone for a few days, I do not even realize how draining social interaction can be. I enjoy spending time with certain people—people I find appealing in one way or another—but if I spend too much time in situations in which I am surrounded by people, I get tense, tired, and anxious. What that means is this: I am an introvert, through and through.


My thoughts are too jumbled and garbled and otherwise too utterly indecipherable to document, so I will give up for now. I will spend another day in solitude. I may do laundry I intended to do yesterday and I may clean the house as I had planned to do yesterday. And I might do a hundred other things on yesterday’s list. Yesterday, the day I had planned to use as a time dedicated to “getting things done,” turned into an exercise in lethargy. I am afraid this day may do the same. If so, I will chalk it up to recovering from the exhaustion of being an introvert in an extrovert’s world. And on I go. Life goes on as this little blue dot spins in an endless sea of darkness. There are secrets so numerous and so vast we cannot hope to ever know them; but we keep pursuing an incredibly attractive, yet pointless, endeavor.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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