Our Infinite Blade of Grass

I find the universe an unending source of fascination. From the kuiper belt inward and outward toward distances unknown with red shifting celestial objects, all of it hugs my never-ending intrigue of infinity. I am not Neil deGrasse Tyson brilliant by any means, nor do I possess the brain-wares close to an Einstein. What is locked into my 3 lb cranial matter, however, is the ability to read fancy terms and come up with some constellation of ideas that never end.

Space never ends, too. As mortals seem to understand the matter, … it goes, and goes, and goes. “What’s after the edge of the known universe?”, my mom always said. Probably more expanse? Additional infinity, possibly. If you consider the size of the know universe as 94 BILLION light years across, this fact is so ridiculously unthinkable that infinity is a concept nearly beyond consideration. Nearly, yes … but reachable for a few minutes of my time this morning. What, really, is 94B light years plus one, anyway?

Infinity is a time abstraction.

I sit here at my desk thinking about time. On StarTalk a few days ago, Neil deGrasse Tyson was considering the age of our local universe since the Big Bang. He analogized the span of time with a football field’s 100-yard distance from one goal line to the other – A gridiron/timeline of the universe, as it were. A 14 billion year measurement funneled down into format most of us can understand with our little 3 lb number crunching, synapse-firing spectacular wiggles of matter.

Cosmic time intervals are so large, we need help pulling them into a scale we can grasp. Fourteen billion … 14,000,000,000 years. Ugh.

His analogy was better than most offensive plays the Steelers tripped over themselves so far this season, I must admit.

Place the events of 14B years on a 100 yard field – where would the events happen? If one considers a southern goal line to be the start of the Big Bang, our solar system does not begin forming until about the thirty yard line on the north side of the field – seventy yards away. Around the four yard line, single cell organisms became multi-cell organisms with legs, eyes, antennae, i.e. sensors for what is happening around their environment. “Cave dwellers appeared at the near side of the thickness of the blade of grass at the zero yard line”, according to Mr. Tyson. (Yes, we are talking about blades of grass here) …

Through the thickness of that blade of grass at the ZERO yard line, … Moses, Jesus, Mohamed, agriculture, …then US. We are hanging on to that last blade – on the far edge with our dangly toes barely able to NOT kick up the fine, white powder beneath our feet … 100 YARDS AWAY !!… 14,000,000,000 years away.

Supporting all this has been the James Webb telescope and the progress of science. Change has been a constant. This is why I am so fascinated by small, upward glances toward space and wide open perspectives into astronomic ideas and access into, almost, the entire universe…

And infinity, of course.

The cosmos does not exist for us. It can’t. Our planet could disappear tomorrow and the gazillions of galaxies and mega-trillions of stars will live on as if the Steelers, Yankees, and Washington, D.C. had no emotional power over us. Stars incubated for nearly 10B years before our local solar system decided to blink awake. Our sun is estimated to live for another 5B years before it morphs into a red giant as it enters into its dying stage of existence.

I don’t find any of this depressing at all. Infinitely captivating, actually. Looking inward at what we do have and can control, I don’t see oceans of emptiness. I see a paradise equal to – if not greater than – what we can ever know about the cosmos.

We exist to be always looking up, ever vigilant of the opportunities in our lives. This is what the universe, ultimately, means to me. It is a copious supply of possibilities every time I read, or observe, anything in its shimmering darkness. No matter what is squirming about in my local universe, I can always find a little star somewhere – a nestled bright spot hidden in a celestial sphere on a friend’s face, in a piece of music I am playing, or simply woven into a kind conversation.

These are endless and plentiful for all of us. In a way, infinite.

I never did answer mom’s query. She asked it more than once. My hope is her soul rests easy among the stars at that very edge of infinity. All of our questions will be answered some day. This is my hope.

As for the present time and place, I will find my refuge in the unanswered and precious 14 billion years presented before all of us. They hold a magnificent portion of infinite wisdom in their age. I am glad they cradle our existence and look forward to an additional 14 billion more.

… However, if actuarial tables hold true, I have only .0000000017857th of that time to learn more. Oh well, when my time ends, I’ll just hang out with mom at the edge of the universe and see what happens. We’ll have an infinity’s worth of time to figure it all out.

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