For a long while now, I’ve been enjoying the slow lull of the indifference that for me naturally follows a rather narrow perspective of my very existence: the focus on my own everyday life. For years, my main focus in life has been myself and my immediate surroundings. By “immediate” I mean not just my family and friends, not my town, not my country, but my planet. Alright, so I haven’t been the most dedicated activist fighting for a better world, but I’ve followed world news, traveled a bit and recycled paper and plastic. I haven’t given much thought to the even larger picture: the picture that makes our planet seem like nothing more than a tiny blip in the enormity that is the universe.
I’ll tell you, as a child I had a much wider perspective on life than I do now, and I had a feeling inside me that I didn’t truly recognize until today when I did the aforementioned stupid thing: the feeling of curiosity. When not playing with Barbies, eight year old me used to get dizzy following trains of thought that usually started with the question “what would be if nothing was”? With help from a few patient grown-ups I’d rather cleverly deduce that the answer must be “nothing”. But then, eight year old me would wonder: what would be the point of anything if nothing existed? Again, the rational answer must be nothing. But if nothing existed, what would the universe look like? The answer would yet again be “nothing”, or when I wanted to mix it up a little, I’d figure “not like anything”. And then, eight year old me would think: was there ever a time when nothing existed?
And here’s where I’d get dizzy: If there was a time when nothing existed, how did something come to be? If God created everything, eight year old me would wonder, then who created God? What created what created God? What created what created what created God? I quickly gave up on the God hypothesis. Even the big bang theory only explained part of the story, and my original question still remained: what was before anything ever was? How did it all start? And where is it going to end? Is there even a limit to the universe? If so, what’s on the other side? If not, how can it possibly keep going forever? What does it stretch into? This is when my head would start to hurt and the grown-ups would have no more patience with my questions, and I’d go back to playing with my Barbies. I’ve mostly kept my mind on Earth ever since. Until today.
Today, as you know, I did something stupid: I read an online newspaper article about cold fusion. It was brilliantly explained by a physicist at the University, who made it easy to understand even for me. So when the newspaper linked to the physicist’s blog, I went for it. Equally interesting and equally brilliantly explained, I read his posts about dark matter, the Higgs boson and the mathematical possibility of intelligent life on other planets. I spent three hours on his blog, reading and wondering, and rediscovering the curiosity I seemed to have left behind at age eight. The questions flared back up: what is dark matter, really? What are black holes? Does the universe have a border? Is there such a thing as aliens, and did my best friend’s mother really see a UFO as a child? Is there life after death? How do ghosts fit in to this mess? Is it theoretically possible to travel through time? What’s our significance on this tiny little planet in the grander scheme of things? Is there a meaning at all? Is everything just chaos? And will they PLEASE solve the mystery of the universe already so I can go on with my life?
This weekend I was planning on cleaning my apartment, playing a little Sims 3 (my replacement Barbies) and generally fuzzing about how to get around when I can’t afford a car. Now it all seems mind-numbingly unimportant. My head hurts.