As I write this, it’s past 2:00 in the morning. Raindrops are pattering on the roof, I have some good jazz playing, and am sipping some freshly brewed tea. My space is otherwise quiet, and the visible world has contracted to a lamp on my worktable and the screen of my computer. The outside world consists of an irregular patter of raindrops, which somehow fits in with the jazz.
There’s something about the small hours of the morning that I find loosens the difference between present and past. It’s a good time for remembering, and I am fortunate that my good memories outweigh the bad. And it’s a good time for thinking.
I read today that some astronomers think the universe holds trillions of galaxies, and if each has billions of stars, the numbers of inhabitable planets must be in the millions, at least and maybe far more. I remember as a boy thinking of parallel universes. In a parallel universe, there might be another me, sipping tea at past midnight, listening to jazz, but writing in Portuguese. Or the parallel me might have three hands. Or four heads. Or look like a fish with gills and wearing a clam on my head, typing in the fish language.
More seriously, we know there’s a lot of weird stuff in this amazing universe. But as far as we can determine, we’re the only place that has life. Where it came from or whether we come from here, we don’t know. The heavier elements like silver or iron were formed in nuclear reactions in the hearts of stars and scattered through the universe, and came together in a gaseous cloud that gravity collapsed in on itself and solar systems were born. That’s the current theory. That means that we are literally star stuff, made up from the bones of stars and galaxies.
There are things that science cannot explain. We’re getting pretty good at figuring what this neighborhood of the galaxy is, and when and how it happened. The impossible, unanswerable question is why. Why are we alive? Why here and why now and why do we see and think and feel?
When I was a younger man, at the small hours of the morning I would drink wine and have the stereo blasting sad music. I was sure we humans were insignificant and that life had no meaning. I was frustrated at the question of why? I saw no purpose other than randomness and coincidence and the soulless business of life being born into meaninglessness and death. As the song lyric goes, I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.
I’m not sure how and why or where I found that life has significance. I have zero proof of that. I am now quite certain that beauty exists and is important. I am now certain that there is a thing called truth. I am certain now that there is a thing called love and that this planet we live on is not an accident in an endless chain of accidents.
I have no proof of any of this. I can produce no argument better than the picture of a kitten, no argument better that a fine morning, no proof better than a dandelion leaf. I am not blind to the truths that life means death and that to a beetle, a warbler is the grim reaper. But I can get my friends laughing by telling a joke, and let’s see a star do that. I can smile, and let’s see a nebula do that. I can be awed by a spectacular sunset, and let’s see a galaxy do that.
I am also completely convinced that the thing called love has an existence above and beyond our individual existences. Loving my girl is the best argument I have that life is meaningful, and the fact she makes me smile, well, let’s see a star do that. I can kiss her and run my fingers through her hair, and that’s my best proof that life is good. I am quite certain that making a friend laugh is as good as a prayer. I am quite certain, with absolutely no proof, that what I feel for my sweetie will last forever, long after the earth itself ceases. Yes, that’s absurd, and so what?
It matters, that’s what.
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