Living where we do, in the suburb of a small city, we don’t see many stars. We see the biggest and the brightest; the Big Dipper, Orion’s Belt. But we never really see the full scope of the galaxy. Last night, while visiting with our friends Hannah and Debra on their farm, I felt as though I could see the entire universe.
Our galaxy alone contains 200 to 400 billion stars. And there are an estimated 100 to 200 billion galaxies in the universe. One simulation suggests there might be as many as 500 billion galaxies. I wonder if the number might be larger than that. Perhaps even immeasurable.
As I have stated in this blog before, I am not, nor have I ever been, very outdoorsy. But last night may have made me a believer. It was a perfect night under the stars. The area of the farm where we set up our picnic was breathtaking. A sheer rock wall and a babbling creek on one side, rows and rows of crops on the other. We roasted hotdogs and bratwurst over the crackling fire. We devoured my wife’s homemade mac-n-cheese. We cut chunks of juicy watermelon and ate farm-fresh salad. And we finished off the dinner with S’mores.
After dinner the adults talked by the fire as the kids played hide and seek in the darkness.
Walking back to the house at the end of the evening, we stopped several times to take in the view of the stars. At one point I stopped and spontaneously kissed my wife. She asked if I was feeling romantic. I was. As nights go, this one was pretty perfect.
I am not a very spiritual man. But recently, I’ve seen a presentation by a dear friend, JD Stillwater called “Seven Candles”. You can see more about it here http://sevencandles.org/.
The gist of the program is that, as a scientist, JD feels the same feelings of spirituality from the wonders of the universe and the interconnectedness of its inhabitants as a Christian might feel about God and Jesus. I would not presume to tell you how JD feels about God and Jesus, because I don’t know. All I know is that his presentation strikes many chords with me. I’ve seen it twice now and both times was moved to tears. If you ever get a chance to experience Seven Candles I highly recommend it.
I thought about JD and Seven Candles last night while enjoying the natural world and marvelling at the enormity of the universe with good food and good friends.
Hannah and Debra are two of my favorite friends on the planet. When we get together it’s always a good time. It helps that our children (our 2 and their 2) are like siblings. They’ve all grown up together and they get along famously. Their Chandler and our Elliott are the same age and their Owen and our Emma, too. It also helps that we always meet each other where we are. No airs are put on. We can just be ourselves with them. And I appreciate that.
Seeing so many stars last night on the farm, it makes me wish the light pollution wasn’t so bad where we live. I suddenly feel the need to be out where I can see the stars better. Oddly enough, being amongst all those stars doesn’t make me feel small or insignificant. On the contrary, it makes me feel even more amazed that I’m here at all. In the evolution of things, I’m a pretty big deal. Everything that had to happen in the last many millions of years for me to be here; it’s staggering.
Looking up at those billions of stars, I have no doubt there are other sentient lifeforms in the universe. How they evolved is likely very different than our evolution. But I know they’re there, in some form or another, looking up at the stars and thinking and feeling the same things I am.
That’s awesome. In the truest sense of the word.