Outer Space

Everything we can see or touch, everything material and physical, is mere fat in the cosmic milk. Everything we thought was important is a tiny fraction of what’s really going on.” Or so says this Wired article, discussing some new cosmological discoveries that have got the scientists a-buzzing.

Apparently, the stuff of the universe that we can measure (matter, energy) only accounts for about 4% of the universe’s total mass. 23% is made up of ​“dark matter” and 73% of it is made up of ​“dark energy” — stuff that we can’t measure or interact with, but still affects how the universe operates. Personally, I find these concepts pretty intriguing, because it reveals that even in the midst of our 21st century hubris, there’s still stuff out there that exceeds our abilities to comprehend and understand.

But do these discoveries make my life and experiences, my story, and less valid? The tone of the article seems to celebrate the fact that these discoveries reveals us humans to be even punier and less significant than previously thought. I don’t know about you, but that’s not exactly something to be jubilant about when you wake up in the morning. The last thing I want to feel is that is my role in the universe is even more worthless, that my importance is in even more doubt than it normally is.

Are there political implications to the idea that most of the universe is untouchable, endlessly expanding, scarcely knowable? Will we finally get over our obsession with static utopias, sudden armageddons, limits, and closure? Is there philosophical comfort to be found in a silent, never-ending steady bang?”

Those are good questions, and like good questions there aren’t easy answers. But I hesitate to believe that the universe growing more unknowable means that my life, and the lives of those around me, are less important, less valuable, less worthy. If that’s the case, than what’s the point of living, of having relationships and loves, of trying to do good, of trying to accomplish anything of lasting value.?

When I think about this sort of stuff, I find myself gravitating more and more towards an ancient piece of literature that dealt with these exact same questions of our place and significance in the universe.