Watching the Universe Explode

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They say the universe is expanding, faster than we ever imagined possible; so fast, in fact, that the end will come with planet-sized cubes of ice and the simultaneous explosions of a thousand million unopened cans of soda. When the sun goes out it will be cold. Or maybe it will be hot. Hot, then cold. 

My aunt told me that she plans to dress in layers.

It's a rushing train, speeding by us at the speed of sound, at the speed of light, at the speed of time. But time is relative. And the cool thing is that we get to watch the universe come to an end one second at a time. Because of our small stature in relation to everything, we get to see each moment pass, and it's those little moments that pull us out of the impending disaster called the universe, and remind us that each moment in time has always existed and always will exist. Because, time.

I like to imagine myself as static, unchanging--while simultaneously growing and weaving a picture called Me. I will never cease to exist, because if you step outside of time and look in, there I am: being born, turning 1, turning 10, getting married, changing jobs, publishing books, having pets, and dying--and I am always doing these things and will continue endlessly to do these things until the universe explodes. 

It's not the same as pre-destination--no one decided I will do these things. I made each choice myself. But if you look carefully, there is a tiny bubble of time that encapsulates the beginning and end of Me--and that bubble has always existed and will always exist. And it's not the same as a time loop in which everything repeats, because even though I always was and always will be, I only was once. And everyone around me has always existed and will always, and when I go to the cemetery to talk to my grandfather, I'm talking to the version of him that ended just a few years ago. I know that version of him can't hear me, but perhaps the one looking in from outside of time can, and perhaps a small piece of him always could hear me, and always has.

I wonder who will talk to me after I'm dead. I wonder if I listen carefully enough, if I can hear them.

And then I imagine hundreds of thousands of millions of billions of lives, flashing into existence at their exact moment in time, and then out again, and forging webs that reach out and entwine with other lives flashing into existence, and all I see is a constantly changing but absolutely static array of firework-like bubbles, twisting and twirling and wending through time, together. The most complex spiderweb you've ever seen, the most delicate of tributaries bleeding and rushing together; each of us a beautiful flash of light--beginning and ending and existing.

The way we see it from the inside, it looks like so many firsts--first breath, first word, first step, first laugh, first kiss, first accomplishment, first love--and so many lasts: last love, last accomplishment, last kiss, last laugh, last step, last word, last breath... if time is moving, moving, moving in one direction, at the same speed, at the same pace and pulling us along like a rushing river. But it's not. All of my existence and all of your existence is right there, in our one, beautiful bubble, surrounded by all of the time in which we did not exist--but which is filled with its own bubbles of others who have lived and breathed and loved.

Then I stand up and go outside, and look at the slice of time that I can see in front of me--trees changing from green to orange, blue skies, warm sun, cool breeze, and I wonder what the next slice of time will look like, and the one after that, and the one after that, and I hope that the bubble that I am creating (and have created and will create) is as beautiful as those of everyone around me.

And then I remember that I have to feed the cats and get the groceries and do the dishes--and I turn my thoughts to the mundane, because if I spend to much time thinking about the words that I'm going to write or the picture I'm going to paint or the bubble I'm going to make, instead of actually doing it--nothing gets done.

And I want my bubble to be beautiful, right up until the universe explodes.


"Returning to himself, let man consider what he is in comparison with all existence; let him regard himself as lost in this remote corner of nature; and from the little cell in which he finds himself lodged, I mean the universe, let him estimate at their true value the earth, kingdoms, cities, and himself. What is a man in the Infinite?

...For who will not be astounded at the fact that our body, which a little ago was imperceptible, in the universe, itself imperceptible in the bosom of the whole, is now a colossus, a world, or rather a whole, in respect of the nothingness which we cannot reach? He who regards himself in this light will be afraid of himself, and observing himself sustained in the body given him by nature between those two abysses of the Infinite and Nothing, will tremble at the sight of these marvels; and I think that, as his curiosity changes into admiration, he will be more disposed to contemplate them in silence than to examine them with presumption...

...For in fact what is man in nature? A Nothing in comparison with the Infinite, an All in comparison with the Nothing, a mean between nothing and everything. Since he is infinitely removed from comprehending the extremes, the end of things and their beginning are hopelessly hidden from him in an impenetrable secret; he is equally incapable of seeing the Nothing from which he was made, and the Infinite in which he is swallowed up."

Blaise Pascal (1623–1662). Thoughts.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.


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