I spent enough time out on the deck tonight, looking up at the stars, to know the universe in which we live is beyond comprehension. Humankind invented gods in an attempt to understand the complexity and vastness of this world in which we live. The attempt was in vain; we will never understand the universe if for no other reason than its sheer size. Our brains cannot comprehend the size of infinity. We cannot fathom the endlessness of time and space, the former in either direction. How long before now did the “beginning” take place? Our questions presuppose a starting point; but “always” does not comport with our insistence on believing in the sequence of experience.

Looking skyward to the stars and planets above me, my sense of self dissolves into wonder at the vastness of everything. Suddenly, as I look at the stars and planets and unknown bodies blinking at me from above, the sharpness of my razor and the strength of a beer become infinitesimally irrelevant. My life becomes irrelevant. The lives of the people who matter to me more than anything on earth become irrelevant to the universe, but not to me. That’s where the infinite and the ephemeral begin to clash; passion battles rationality and belief goes to war with faith.

Something about tonight—the sky, my mood, the alignment of the stars and planets…who knows—cracks my normally solid armor and reveals weakness in me that I try to shield. But those protected places fall victim to the man I am. This night is stronger than the average night. This night asserts its dominance over time and belief and hope. We are but fractions in a monstrous mathematical puzzle dedicated to enormous whole numbers; we are tiny burrs on an enormous saddle.

About John Swinburn

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