A Perspective Check to Start the Week

Posted 12.09.2013

griffin-obsvMy parents have been in town this past weekend to celebrate a milestone birthday for my wife. While some of our crew went shopping on Friday, my dad and I spent the afternoon at LA’s Griffith Observatory. You can’t beat it for breathtaking views of earth and sky.

It was a light crowd on Friday so we were able to make a last minute decision to catch the 30 minute show at the Griffith’s planetarium. Half an hour later I walked out feeling very insignificant.  Believe it or not, it was a humbling, awe inspiring and liberating experience to feel that way. Here’s why.

The show we saw is called Centered in the Universe and (as described here on Wikipedia) the presentation provides a condensed history of astronomy from the ancient Egyptians to Galileo to Hubble to the present day. It also takes you on a journey through the history of our ever expanding universe from the beginning Big Bang more than 13 billion years ago to today’s estimated 100 to 200 billion galaxies. Each of those galaxies, including our own Milky Way, contains hundreds of billions of stars. Somewhere in the midst of that mind boggling number of stars in the universe lies the sun around which Earth and the rest of the planets in our solar system orbit.

The next time I’m feeling overworked and overwhelmed, I’m going to try to remember a few things I was thinking about after seeing Centered in the Universe.

First, I’m no Galileo or Hubble. The intellect and creativity that the greats of astronomy have demonstrated is extraordinarily humbling and awe-inspiring to me. It leaves me asking myself, “How does anyone figure this kind of stuff out?”

Second, it’s humbling and awe inspiring in a different way to consider that this life that I lead with all of its joys and frustrations is the result of a cosmic event that took place more than 13 billion years ago. Is anything I’m doing really that important when I consider the much, much, much broader context? Certainly not enough to freak out about.

That leads me to the final thought I had walking out of the planetarium. When I consider the vast history of the universe, it makes me think what a gift it is to be even an infinitesimal part of it. It really makes me want to make the most of each moment.

So, that’s my perspective check for this coming week. What’s going to help you keep things in perspective?