Theory Of Infinite Smallness.

I like feeling small. The depth of the Pacific or a big sky filled with stars or a giant redwood... The internet... These things make me feel insignificant, and that’s just fine. There’s something comforting to me about understanding first-hand my relative puniness compared to the vastness of the universe. I like the perspective.

Perspective is one of the main reasons I like this piece by Carl Sagan:

However, while there is a lot out there to give us pause concerning our own smallness, there is little to give humans any perspective on the potential smallnesses within ourselves. I posted a photo of a snail with a spider living upon its shell, and Whitesocks wondered what smaller being might, in turn, be hitching a ride upon the back of the spider, “too small for our gallumphing eyes to see...”

I have often wondered the same thing. Images like the one below of the Cone Nebula from the Hubble Telescope show us corners of space too vast and distant for our monkey brains to even begin to grasp...

Yet these images from the outlying ends of the universe look remarkably like Lennart Nilsson's photographs of the inside of the human body. Take the one below - a child's aortic arch.

So the inside of the human body looks like outer space. Or outer space looks like the inside of the human body. Many of us know that there’s a lot of unidentifiable “dark matter” out there in space, but few of us realize that the molecules that make up our corporeal selves are themselves made up of vast quantities of unidentified nothingness - the vast amounts of space that exist between the electrons whirling in orbits around protons. Humans, too, are mostly “dark matter.” We are made up of a million solar systems along with all of the vast, lonely space in between.

Just as the universe can have no end in bigness, smallness is just as unlimited. Those protons and neutrons are made of something smaller still, and so on into infinity. Which makes it easy for me to imagine that everything is a potential host to countless universes - universes who may or may not be aware that their very existence hangs on the whims of our existence. And our existence, in turn, hangs on the whim of something that may or may not be aware of us.

I was out jogging on the beach, and as I ran over the piles of kelp, I stirred up flies. Three barn swallows followed me on my jog, swooping to within inches of my legs to hunt the flies, scooping up the bounty of food created by my run. I was happy for the swallows, and the swallows were clearly happy for themselves. I was even happy to be responsible for stirring up the meal.

But then I thought about the flies. Just sitting there in the kelp, minding their fly business, living their fly lives... Then, BAM. Startled out of their nest by disaster, they flee only to be scooped up and eaten by a terrifying predator. Did I mean to cause the flies such a horrible death? Nope. I didn’t even think about it. Was I simultaneously sad for the flies and happy for the swallows. Yep. Did I think much about swallows or the deaths of hundreds of flies again until this very moment? Nope. And this story encapsulates my theory.

We are all tiny riders on the backs of spiders.

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