No, I’m not talking about the Douglas Adams book. But I did recently read (listen to) the first Hitch-hiker’s Guide book and I really enjoyed it. Today, I’m writing about the comfort I’ve been finding recently in ideas about the universe.
When I’m feeling anxious, I’ve found that looking at the night sky helps me. (Though only if I’m feeling anxious at night, obvs.) The stars, planets and other galaxies make me feel so small, so insignificant. And this, for me, is a beautiful thing – my worries are meaningless and I should just try to enjoy life. I don’t need to be wracked with so much worry about Brexit or America because, well, human life is so fleeting. Which makes me happy; we should just try to be as kind as possible and stop worrying.
So yes, I like thinking about the universe. Recently, I think it is a response to everything that’s happening. I’ve been listening to a lot of The Infinite Monkey Cage (totally binge-listening) and I’ve just finished Carlo Rovelli’s Seven Brief Lessons on Physics. It’s quite difficult for me, as somebody with a humanities / literature background, to understand so much physics. But if physics had been presented to me in such a way at school, I might have been more interested in it. So yes, perhaps part of the attraction for my current physics obsession is that it is, especially in comparison to literature, divorced from emotion: so much of what is happening in the world right now is reactionary and people thinking that they are right. But, in learning about the universe, I’ve found that scientists are far more likely to admit when they don’t know something. They’re mainly interested in being correct, not adamant about a particular way of seeing things. For somebody who has a background in forming an argument and sticking to it and, for somebody who is a perfectionist, this is oddly calming. And I think that the idea that we are all made of stardust is pretty yogic, but I probably shouldn’t say that.
I always liked looking up at the stars when I was a child. I had a book called I-Spy in the Night Sky and I had to tick off constellations as I saw them. The other evening, as I was walking home from work, and I saw a bright star in the sky. I took out my phone because I’ve now got an app that can identify stars etc. And it turned out that this bright shining object was Venus. I could see another planet with my naked eyes (okay, with my glasses). ‘Isn’t this amazing?!’ I wanted to shout to the other people desperate to get home. But I didn’t. Because human beings are weird. But it was amazing. It’s amazing to get a new perspective on life, to see things a different way. It’s amazing to learn about people working together, across nations, to further knowledge. Especially in 2017.