The Speck of Dust

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It was on the back porch that Tony and I discovered the secrets of the universe. We were never bothered by the hot rays of the afternoon sun, or the hardness of the concrete steps that flaked of worn, gray paint. A robin chirped happily in the tree above us.

Tony played drums and I played electric guitar. The back porch offered a place to rest and a map to course our musical destiny. We knew one day the world would recognize our talent and we would tour the nation blasting decibels of rock and roll into the ears of fans. All we needed was a good bass player. Well, and maybe a good singer. As soon as we noticed our dehydration from practicing, the screen door would open and mom would appear with cold glasses of iced tea.

It was on those steps that we solved the mysteries of life. Why were we here? Where did we come from? Where does the universe end? When any explanation could not be found, we simply gave God the credit and the riddle was solved.

We knew we would discover the answers someday, but for now time could not be wasted. There were places to go, hamburgers to eat, cute girls to flirt with, and future fans to please.

I don’t think I grasped the idea that the points of light I admired from my bedroom window at night were all very much like our sun. My concept of the universe ended at the faintest twinkle I could see. What was beyond?

Odds of stardom diminished, and gradually dampened my dreams of making melodies the world would hum. I chose to be a jeweler, and unknowingly became a merchant for one of the most most abundant elements in the universe: carbon. In its normal form, it is everywhere, including my very own body. In crystallized form, it is called diamond, and when fashioned, is one of the most rare and beautiful objects. I became a seller of a product made from the stars themselves.

I learned the universe extended further than my imagination. The earth I called home seemed to shrink to the size of a child’s ball. Later, the Hubble telescope was launched, and that ball transformed into a speck of dust. The Giant Box continued to grow. I became infinitesimally small.

Today, as my hair turns gray and wrinkles grow gracefully on my face and hands, I realize that everything we know about life has been right here. At least for now, there is no evidence for life elsewhere. Every song that has been sung, every girl who has received a diamond ring, and every glass of iced tea that has been drank has happened on this speck. Every war, every hero, every romance, and every kiss has been here. And is it preposterous to think that it is our perceptions of the universe that give it life? In other words, as we create ways to peer deeper into the past, will another galaxy appear simply because we observed it? Did the robin of my past perform its beautiful musical solo because I was there to hear it?

At least for now, our tiny floating speck is the only place we can call home. We are little gears, and the essence of this salt-sprinkled velvet curtain we call the universe. We have one life and one chance. Let’s create good things.

The feature photo was taken by Voyager 1 in 1991 as it approached the outer limits of our solar system. The tiny dot is the Earth from 4 billion miles away.

“The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors, so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.”  –Carl Sagan.  From “Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space,” Random House, 1994.

Copyright 2013 by Diamond Mike Watson.

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