Yesterday I got myself out of my house to go on a hike through Griffith Park. Being outside makes me feel infinitely better, and I figured exercise couldn't hurt. That and it's free. I hike up the hill to the Griffith Observatory, which, for those that aren't familiar, is a planetarium overlooking LA that was built in the 30s and has lots of exhibits on space inside. It, too, is gloriously free, and the view is amazing, so I make it up there about once a month.
Walking around the exhibits, I start reading about the sun, types of stars, meteorites that had been found in the US, and other space things. I usually don't stay too long, since it's usually pretty crowded, but yesterday was different. I got a lot more engaged in the exhibits than normal. As you walk down this ramp to the lower level, there's a whole wall of star-shaped jewels, pins, earrings, and other shiny things that have obviously been collected over the years from lots and lots of people. The line of stars goes all the way down to the bottom of the ramp, which is a good half of the circular building, and it's to represent the big bang and the things that have occurred in the time since that.
It goes through probably 40 feet of sparkly stars before you even get to the creation of the Milky Way. Then, within a couple of feet, you have the sun, planets, and present day. That 40 feet represented BILLIONS of years before the earth even existed. And considering the earth is what, 4.6 billion (could look it up, but too lazy) years old, it kind of blows your mind. Then there's the amount of time earth existed before life of any kind came about, which is longer than life HAS been around. On the lower level, there's also a scale model of the solar system, showing each planet in relation to the others. Earth next to Jupiter is so insignificant. And then, in reality, Jupiter is insignificant compared to stars, which are insignificant compared to our galaxy, and so on out to other galaxies and space that we only guess what might exist.
I have been feeling relatively depressed for the past month due to lack of employment and other issues arising out of said unemployment, and suddenly to realize just how insignificant I was in the realm of space and time was almost a comfort. What happens in my life is as insignificant to the universe as what happens to one particular grain of sand (with which I may never come into contact) in my lifetime. The fact that the earth exists is fairly inconsequential to every other star and every other galaxy, so the fact that I even exist is not even worth mentioning in the grand scheme of the universe.
So how can something so insignificant have problems that seem so large? That was definitely a lesson in perspective. I'm just a conglomeration of particles with electrical impulses that to me turn into pain, suffering, happiness, and excitement...and we don't even really know what that means yet. The mind hasn't been completely figured out. Because I am nothing, my problems are nothing. One person being unemployed versus a giant star dying and sucking millions of planets and other stars into its implosion?
It may baffle some people that this thought relaxes me. That something I do wrong really affects nothing in the whole grand scheme of the universe. If I fail or if I succeed, I have changed nothing relating to anything of consequence in this ever-expanding universe. Even on earth, did the fact that one t-rex ate a particular small dinosaur do anything to affect history as we know it?
Some people turn to religion to feel comfort in times of hardship. It comforts them to think everything is "god's plan." I don't really find it comforting to think that some puppetmaster decided Johnny the hobo was destined to sleep under a bridge and get beaten to death by some crackheads. I'm comforted by science because not only is it simply fascinating that we exist, but how awe-inspiring something as large as the universe is, and how everything is just a piece of something else. I'm not aware of the life of a particular electron in my body, and I'm like that electron in the universe. Necessary for some reason, but still inconsequential to nearly everything.