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bear by san

March 2017



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rengeek kit icarus

the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world

So here's the thing. One of the hardest things to deal with about being a science fiction writer is the scope of the material. Almost all of us cheat, because the universe is so... inconceivably vast that it's almost impossible to work with. So we work around it.

I keep hoping someday I'll write something that captures how that universe really looks and feels to me. I imagine if I ever swing it, it will be excoriated, but I still think it's a worthy goal. It's awfully neat out there, even if we don't, in the face of it, matter. (Am I unique in not finding that particularly bleak prospect? Sometimes, I think I am. The vast indifference of heaven feels rather inevitable, to me.)

Recently, I've been exposed to two pieces of art that capture that scale, in some regard.

One is here. It's called The Known Universe. 

It's a planetarium show from the American Museum of Natural History.

Another is a spoken-word piece by Peter Mulvey, entitled Vlad the Astrophysicist. You can listen to a live recording here. Right-click to download, and crank the volume: it's soft.

I wonder, sometimes, if that is why so many people cling to what they cling to, even when it's patently cruel or ridiculous. Because we are so small, and the universe is so very large, and we matter so little to it. And we are not adapted to deal with that. We are very, inherently, biologically, solipsistic.

But I kind of think all that emptiness is beautiful.


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I tried to tackle this issue in my story "Galactic Stress" (http://www.mikebrotherton.com/diamonds/?page_id=41), but, yes, it's very hard to visualize and kind of daunting to contemplate.
Yeah. I'm trying to get my teeth into it in Grail. It's hard.
We don't have to matter, except at our own scale. Which is infinitessimally small, set against that vast, ancient sky. I think that has a tendency to make people... a wee bit crazy, thinking about that scale.

(Too much contemplation of infinity makes both philosophers and astrophysicists go a little strange. Stranger.)

(And The vast indifference of heaven is a marvellous phrase. May I borrow it?)

We are all we have.

And we're so horrible to each other. *g*

I stole the phrase from Watten Zevon, who probably lifted it from somewhere else. *g*


I always feel a sense of relief when natural phenomena remind me how small I am. Whether it's the roar of Niagara Falls or the endless empty horizons while off-shore sailing, or the vastness of a clear night sky...it reminds me that no matter how badly I screw up, it really doesn't matter.
Actually I find it comforting most of the time, somehow.
Me, too. The enormity of the known universe can balance the enormity of significance in my own tiny sphere (it gets pretty deep if you consider it to the subatomic scale.)
Yeah. This is it, people. This is what you get.

Stop fighting over stuff that doesn't matter, like whether my god can beat up your god.

Just stop it.

We matter to each other. The universe isn't fair, or kind -- that's why it's our job to do those ourselves.

I've never really grasped the alleged terror that people feel at the concept of death, or infinity, or whatever. Ever since I can remember (in fact, more the younger I was) there was a huge amount of stuff I just didn't know. That's normal, expected, unavoidable. What's the big deal?
We like being important.
I've gone back and forth on my feelings on the vastness of the universe vs. the smallness of us. When I started really understanding it in my teens, it often rather depressed me that we aren't all that important except to ourselves. Over time, though, it's shifted to relief that we aren't that important, because that means the fate of the universe isn't on our shoulders. Time itself won't end because we didn't do as many good things as we thought we ought to, or ate too many cookies, or whatever.

As someone given to worrying about the whole world, coming to that conclusion was an incredible relief.
I think the vast emptiness is beautiful, too. All the comments here are reassuring. We matter to each other, yes. Isn't that enough?
We matter to each other, and it doesn't matter that we matter. *g*
Thank you. Those are lovely.

If you write that something, I will read it.

(I was reading a collection of Le Guin's essays on science fiction and fantasy today. The combination of those with these... I either want to say "is interesting" or "makes me want to write science fiction". Although of course that can be done with fantasy too, or any genre for that matter.)

Deep time is amazing.
For something else that gives a sense of how big the Universe is and how small we are:

And the comic strip that linked to the video, just so you can know what pointed me to that video:

and the one on the following day, which I like even more:

I like the video much more than the comic, I fear. *g*
I love the vast indifference of the heavens! Pressure's off, man! So I can just focus on maximizing pleasure for myself while minimizing discomfort to others. Sustainable hedonism with a streak of cheerful atheism.
This Episcopalian looked at the Known Universe vid and into my mind came the words from our Book of Common Prayer that mention "the vast expanse of interstellar space...[and]...this fragile Earth, our island home..." Never seen anything that better depicts the vastness and the fragility.

If only the world leaders in Copenhagen were visualizing this too.
I'm with you. I like the emptiness.

I think the thought of being the center of so large a universe would bother me a good deal. I think it's marvelous to consider that there is likely so, so much interesting stuff that has nothing whatsoever to do with me.

It's good to be reminded that the universe is huge.
I'm gonna go against the crowd here and say that the vastness of the universe gives me the screaming heebie-jeebies something fierce.

Yeah, no matter how badly I screw up, it's not gonna matter much.

However, by the same token, no matter how much good I do, it's not gonna matter much, either.
"Good" is a human measurement, and only matters on a human scale.

On the other hand, on a human scale, it's kind of immeasurably important. :)
The radio signals are the part that got to me--that is the proportion of the universe that could, theoretically, have heard of any individual human. I am at once terrified by our limits, and awestruck by how far beyond our own world we've managed to observe.
I was struck by that visual, as well.

I agree with you and most of the people here, that the universe, the vast emptiness, is so painfully beautiful (and it makes me appreciate how painfully beautiful our Earth is, too). Where I have trouble is... I want to be a part of it.
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