I recently attended an astronomy class where I learned that we’re basically hurtling through space, in an ever-expanding universe, headed to who knows where but most likely the outer reaches of nowhere—and fast.
Which is to say, given the Grand Scheme of Things—and trust me, “they” are scheming—the pandemic, politics and planetary pandemonium that mark our current moment are infinitesimally small compared to the quasar that’s going to someday eat our solar system.
Naturally, playing games with scale and proportion is weak sauce when we’re busy being intubated, but it is a way to gain perspective—especially if we gaze into the azure End Time skies and chance a squint at the sun to scold it for melting Greenland. Depending on our situation, of course, that bright orb beckoning us may not be the sun at all, in which case it’s probably the Light. FYI, if you want to see how the world ends—don’t go into the Light, Carol Anne.
Some might say this is a jaundiced perspective. I might reply that there are many definitions of perspective, a la the perception of distance or proportion in space or time i.e., “the virus is very small but the pandemic is very big.” One is microscopic, the other global. Another definition is perceiving situations and understanding their relative importance in relation to each other, as in “an inch of rain during our drought is a spit in the ocean, but an inch of sea-level rise and we can surf Petaluma.”
Some may say I’m a doomsayer, but I’m not—I have tremendous hope for life in general, just not for humans specifically. Life gets around—there are mushroom spores drifting through space destined to light up some distant planet with psychedelic intelligence. But us? It’s high time we accept that humans are the new dinosaurs. And the asteroid is coming. If we want to survive, we must evolve. Dinos became birds. What could we become? Flying monkeys? Yes, please. This would be an evolutionary leap in the exact right direction. Because, paraphrasing Casablanca, “It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of eight billion little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”