STARS, SPACE, AND AUTHOR BILL BRYSON

I'm currently on page fifty-two of Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. I'm trying to wrap my head around the cosmos, which--when you think about--is literally impossible to do. The cosmos is ever-changing and it occupies, well ... everything.

When we think of "space," we often think of an empty void, an area in need of filling. A "spacious" 11,000 square-foot home means that an individual has plenty of room to house his or her twenty-three TVs (one for each room, mind you). Similarly, a parking "space" is just an unoccupied area ... until it is filled with a car. On a daily basis, we purge, clean, donate, and trash. We create more "space" in our closets so we can fill them with other things that, in five years, we'll probably regret buying anyway. (For the record, horizontal orange stripes don't do anyone's hips any favors.)

Outside of our fragile planet, however, space exists everywhere. If we were to exit Earth and were to fly into the inky sky, we wouldn't be in the middle of nowhere. No, we would be in the middle of space. In the middle of the solar system. The Milky Way. The cosmos.

And, really, it's not empty. Because, away from Earth, "space" is actually full of things--stars and galaxies and black holes and supernovae.

Toward the beginning of A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bryson writes that, "It is natural but wrong to visualize ... a kind of pregnant dot hanging in a dark, boundless void. But there is no space, no darkness. The [dot] has no 'around' around it. There is no space for it to occupy, no place for it to be. We can't even ask how long it has been there--whether it has just lately popped into being, like a good idea, or whether it has been there forever, quietly awaiting the right moment. Time doesn't exist. There is no past for it to emerge from."[1]

... My head hurts.

And so does my wanderlust.

Because this talk of the past, of stars, reminds me of Wyoming.

Yes, Wyoming.

There was a night--the night Ty and Zoë and I were in the Tetons--that the three of us stood together and stared at the pin-pricked sky. 

"... the stars were glorious and heavenly and twinkling and teasing, some bright, others white and hot, some yellow with distance. Illuminating and humbling. And with necks craned and jaws dropped, it was Ty who spoke first.

'Sure makes you feel futile, doesn't it?' He paused, turned, kicked the ground and added, 'It does me, anyway.'

... I was swaying a bit, dizzy in mind and body from the wheat beer, but I still eked out, 'Some of those stars don't even exist anymore. We're just seeing the light now.'

'We're looking into the past,' Ty said.

And for a small moment, I almost let myself believe it. That we were there and now, watching and living, being a part--the one given to us--and playing a part--the one we made made for ourselves. I looked and looked, and my neck cramped. Those stars, those millions and millions of miles away twisted amoebas of gas and chemicals, were beautiful."

5 comments:

  1. Such beautiful and mind boggling words. I'd never thought of space in that way before.. Perhaps space doesn't exist - after all, what is it? It could exist only in our minds xxx
    Lucy @ La Lingua : Food, Travel & Life in Italy

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    1. It wasn't until I started reading this book that I looked at space a different way. It's not an empty void, really. It's full of debris and stars and other galaxies all trying to push farther and farther away from each other. I couldn't ever grasp how "big" outer space really is. I don't think I ever will, haha.

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  2. Have you been Cosmos: a space time odyssey? It blows my mind every episode. If you want to keep blowing your mind I would recommend it :)

    Like: did you know that the colours that are in the light of a shining star can tell you what elements it's made of?? Mind blown!

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  3. This is beautiful. I too feel the same way about stars. I miss gazing up at the night sky and not feeling alone.

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