how noble in reason,
how infinite in faculties, in form and moving,
how express and admirable in action, how like an angel in apprehension,
how like a god!
– Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2
When you look up at the Milky Way you see millions of stars. Then think about how you are one person of the millions of Americans (or whatever country you may be from), and the billions of humans, on this one planet in one galaxy which has billions of suns. When you realize that there are 500 billion galaxies with those billions of suns and 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000planets, give or take a couple. That if a fraction of them have life you are one person in that immensity. Does that make you feel small and insignificant?
It seems that many people imaging the enormity of the universe do feel tiny and insignificant. Looking up and imagining those stars wheeling through space, the billions that came before them over the millennia, going back in time for billions of years (about thirteen billion) to a time when the universe was nothing like now, having just boiled out of the big bang; forming, burning, and exploding so that our star could be born. Imagine the sun being born; burning another couple of billion years. Think about humanity evolving all that time until we are no longer even human, the universe expanding and going for billions more years, our sun dying going out with this planet circling silent and dark as time marches on through epochs we cannot imagine.
I imagine that a blood cell in my body would feel the same way. It might feel small like many people feel when they imagine their place in the universe. After all a blood cell’s place in my body is similar seemingly insignificant from it’s point of view. But to me that blood cell is amazing. It might be the one that delivered oxygen when I figured out my first math problem, or made my first omelet. Or maybe it was giving me the oxygen I needed to score from first base on the single that let us win the game. Maybe it gave me the strength to win the only swim race I ever won. Who knows? Even if it never did any of those things, it was there for me in my body, it’s universe, filling it’s role, making me the person I am.
I’m like that blood cell. Maybe I’ll be famous in my own right. I may win a Pulitzer prize, make world peace, and discover a cure for cancer, or just live a plain simple life. Either way to the universe those accomplishments are infinitesimally small as well as infinitely important. Without me, and the millions of Americans, and the billions of humans, and who knows how many other life forms in the universe the universe is nothing.
So when I look up I feel the wondrous power that comes from knowing I am a part of such a wonderful universe. A universe full of billions and billions of suns. That enormous universe that would not exist the way it is now, if I did not exist. So I do not feel small and insignificant, I feel huge and Godlike, realizing that I am a part of that enormous and wondrous creation we call the universe.