I am in awe when I look at a clear sky at night, a sky relatively free of light pollution, watching the universe unveil before me. My recent experience watching the Tim Ernst slide show, “Arkansas Nightscapes,” reminded me to take the time to go outdoors at night and look skyward. It’s an incredible view.
An equally awe-inspiring experience can be had looking at the world around us, the world closer to our eyes. Simply looking at an empty spot of ground, a place littered with dirt and leaves and pieces of tree bark and grass, can reveal a universe no less impressive than the one above our heads. Sometimes, when I allow myself the luxury of time to sit and watch ants scurry about in the dirt, I think of all the other creatures with which they share their territory. Spiders and beetles and moths, thousands upon thousands of insects of every description, and who knows what else are right there, just a few feet or a few inches from our eyes.
For some reason, it’s more likely that I’ll look skyward at night to trigger my sense of awe; perhaps because it’s easier to see. But just a bit of effort and the willingness to watch the ground beneath my feet will trigger that same childlike sense of wonder.
Words cannot begin to express the emotions that flood my mind in looking skyward or, with a little more effort and, perhaps, a magnifying glass looking at the ground. Simply thinking about those actions causes my mind to race with ideas about relationships between stars and planets and all the millions or billions of life forms that may exist in this universe. And then, I realize my tiny piece of that massive compilation of space, my own brain, is capable of having such thoughts. That makes me wonder how many thoughts I’ve never even considered exist in that universe. What thoughts go through the brains of a dog or a cat or a monkey or even a centipede or an ant? Are we humans correct in assuming that, because their brains are so different from ours, they cannot think? How is it that hummingbirds and geese, with brains a fraction the size of ours, are able to make their way hundreds or thousands of miles each year as they migrate north and south?
It’s enough to make the brain explode.