Spraining My Brain on the Universe


My Astronomy class last semester was twelve weeks of reading textbook pages over and over while working homework problems. Twelve weeks of waiting for the physics muscles of my brain to stop being sore and start being buff.

There is something very knotty in trying to grasp the knowledge of planets, galaxies and atomic particles that I can’t imagine moving faster than I can imagine in a universe bigger than I can imagine. I can’t even completely comprehend that we’re hurtling through space right now, thousands of kilometers an hour.

Astonishing, ridiculous, unbelievable, huge. Those were words I thought a lot, times when I drove home blinking away prickly tears of wonder because it was just so COOL and my brain could not bear up under the weight of so much new enormous knowledge.

The week after classes ended we went camping. A few days filled with familiar woods, a small clearing with a small tent, a warm sleeping bag and friends. It was a lot of simplicity and joy.

We went hiking on our last day; strolling down that quiet, shady path life felt small, and immediate.  My world was nothing more than a cool breeze, the sound of birds, and feet plopping through soft, muddy ground. In that space of time it was exactly enough. To spend life wandering though a green forest, never thinking beyond what adventure I might have today and when my next food time is.

But into that little moment crowded the unimaginable universe along with our own beautiful, broken world: the wars, the droughts, the latest inventions, the newest masterpieces of science and art. It gave me such an achy feeling of juxtaposition, not sure if I wanted to change the world, or escape it.  

Which is worse? Forgoing simple pleasures and small wonders for the stress of grandeur and discovery, or forgetting the rest of the world in favor of a life lived in small, rich moments.

I feel like both are irresponsible and leave me missing out on some important piece of the human experience. So I’m left with the tricky, exciting task of finding some balance, and the ultimately comforting knowledge that the reach of God is both infinitely large and infinitely small.