The other day, our family decided to visit the Adler Planetarium in
. We felt our son was old enough to appreciate the experience (somehow) and wanted to reinforce his budding interest in astronomy. Chicago
To this day, I can honestly say that my planetarium field trip when I was in elementary school in the Philippines (3rd grade, I believe, though I’m no longer so sure) remains as one of the most memorable. I have always been fascinated with astronomy, the skies, outer space, and even the idea of extraterrestrial life. I remember when I was a child, my parents invested in an encyclopedia set and what I enjoyed most was the volume about planets! I would flip through the pages and just stare at the pictures, intrigued and seduced by their beauty, making me want to magically shrink and enter the book and physically land on these heavenly bodies. There was no internet then and all I had were pictures on paper and my imagination. Now, as an adult, I try to watch every single episode on astronomy featured on the Science Channel and just enjoy the feeling of awe and wonder as I listen to narrations and explanations by astrophysicists. Heaven indeed!
Man’s interest in astronomy has been existent for hundreds of years, and though the extent of my love affair with it is insignificant compared to that experienced by the great scientists, again the real question is why. Why do we keep looking up to the sky? Is it the sense of wonder that fills us? Is it the sense of excitement, and of possibilities, that fuel our questions? And what exactly do we hope to find and learn? And given what we may find, are we truly prepared? How much can we take and comprehend? How far are we willing to search, ask, discover and learn?
The world out there is infinite and I think what exhilarates me is the sensation that looking up, looking out, is also quite like looking in, where the depth and breadth are both infinite and magnificent. It leaves me breathless just knowing that what is out there is beyond even my imagination. Some people would say that our desire to discover and learn more about the stars and the universe(s) is all about our future, a leaping forward. I say it has more to do with our past. This fascination, this sense of wonder and irresistible temptation to look up to the heavens is really a search for our origins, a natural curiosity for the nature of our lives. It is all part of that seed planted in all of us, that seed that always asks ‘Who am I?’
Astronomers have always said that we are all stardust. We are made of the same elements as the stars in space, and in effect are part of the processes that have occurred and continue to occur for billions of years now. This thought, to me, is both elating and humbling. We are both important and insignificant in the grand scheme of things and choosing a perspective to apply given the various circumstances we face truly spell out the kind of person you are. Sometimes you need to realize your greatness, while sometimes you need to step back and know that you are but a 'pale blue dot', as the late Carl Sagan once said. Hopefully we choose appropriately and that our lives do justice to the greatness of the burning stars.