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[personal profile] timpeltje
"All nonsense in the world stems from the truly ludicrous idea that Man is at the centre of everything and that every person individually is also both completely unique and special. This grotesque aberration, because that's what it is, has given us a great big pile of nonsense. A whole range of religions, for instance (we are so special that there is an invisible almighty creature who watches over us and will ultimately grant us eternity), but also a bunch of UFO rubbish (we are so unique that intelligent extra-terrestrials regularly travel across the cosmos to earth to study us, to occasionally kidnap us and embark on a scavenger hunt in our rectum to see if it might contain the secret of the universe); and then there's also a deluge of delusional nonsense (we are so special that the scientifically totally undocumented and unproven effect of homeopathic drugs really does occur when we take them), and of course we should not forget the incessant twaddle about the paranormal (we are so special that we are bound to have contact with the living after we die, even if this has to be under the guise of a frog), etcetera, etcetera. Time and time again, the nonsense can be brought back to the illusion that we are all so extraordinarily special and not, as Michel Houellebecq poignantly and truthfully formulated, just a temporary arrangement of molecules."
Written by the late (pdw) - translation by me

Despite a very busy work schedule, I devoted some time this week hunting for planets on planethunters.org as well as finding new galaxies on galaxyzoo.org . Fascinating and interesting activities I can recommend to anyone who likes shapes, colours, and feeling insignificantly small!

Reason for my burst of scientific altruism was a two-hour-long mindfuck I was graciously provided by some perverted astronomers who like to do nothing more but fuck with my poor brain (bless them! Gha!). The discovery was of a galaxy at an approximate distance of about 30 billion light years away, and the galaxy's age is said to be 13.1 billion years, that's almost the age of the whole universe. So the distance this bitch-galaxy (that's the official term, I believe) is away from me (and you) would take us longer to travel, at the speed of light, than twice the entire age of the cosmos.
Our planet wasn't even formed when the light we are seeing now was created.
That's the sound of my brain short-circuiting. Fascinating, sure, but so impossible to imagine. Our consciousness evolved at a time when we thought we were the centre of the universe, which is mostly why we are unable to grasp distances and time frames like this. And presumably why the above-mentioned pseudoscientific crap still rages rampantly in a society of supposedly well-educated people.

I don't think the likes of Einstein and Hawking really considered my poor mind as it blew up in a wave of insignificance. But then again, the former one is dead, and the latter pees and poops in a bag. "So every cloud has a silver lining," I added smiling arrogantly.

Being a raw scientific atheist has its downsides. Paralysis from insignificance. No wonder people invent spirits and other non-existing bullcrap to help them cope. We can't have invisible friends like that, because we know too much.

What I do sometimes, when some situation might turn stressful, is zoom out on myself. For a while, I have employed this as a coping strategy. With "zooming out", I mean I visualise my place in the universe. I imagine a camera over my head, gradually going up higher, Google Maps height, then higher, NASA screensaver of earth height, passing by the moon, and then passing all our planets, one by one. Usually, I am relaxed by the time I see myself in the composite (fake) image of the Milky Way (one of my first ever Google searches was "how do we know what the Milky Way looks like?" - or actually, that might have been on AskJeeves, remember him?). Why it calms me down, is easy: it puts everything in perspective. Stressful situations become trivial challenges that won't matter in the end. You do what you do because of the experience you hope to gain. For enjoyment, for a kiss, for a smile on someone's face, for a rare moment of being entirely in the present, of the present, and about the present.

Occasionally, I try to imagine zooming out as far back as I can, i.e. to see an overview of the entire universe. Such insignificance is enough to make anyone vomit. But at least it's vomit and satisfaction combined.

Escapism isn't a dirty word. I consider myself a talented escapist. Hey, I once escaped an attack from a King Cobra (the animal, no the snake juice liquor I once drank in Hong Kong, there was no escaping that!).

And so we float across space,
temporary arrangement of random molecules,
in all our beauty and senselessness,
Disappearing into the void is perhaps the greatest gift we shall ever receive.

*burps stoically*