Who Do You Think You Are?

Photo: I.Rimanoczy

We have heard all these "ifs" before.

If this candidate wins, it will be a catastrophe. I may consider moving to another country.
If I lose my job, it will be all over for my family...
If my boyfriend is cheating on me or leaves me I will not be able to take it.
If I am able to win this marathon again... I will feel I'm still in the game!
If I can only get that contract -- it will change my life.
If my boss would just appreciate me more I would not be so miserable.
If we qualify for the mortgage we will finally have what I dream of...
If I am accepted into that school... my life will change...
If I just would be healthy again, less wrinkled, slimmer, less lonely, or had more time for myself...

Politics, economic up- or down-turns, bull markets, real estate bubbles, famines, droughts, mass migrations. We don't have a scarcity of challenges, expectations, hopes, disappointments and fears. With all this, whether it's the local context of our life, our micro chagrins or macro trends, we have sufficient material to stay worried and freeze in despair, or to leap into action.

But let's see for a moment what lies outside of our bubble.

To get oriented in time, let's make an imaginary mark at the start of a line, a mark representing the Big Bang. The date for this is estimated at some fourteen billion years ago when all the energy that would ever exist in the entire course of time erupted from a point smaller than a grain of sand.

The universe expanded and developed for ten billion years, and five billion years ago our Milky Way galaxy gave birth to ten thousand new stars. One of these was our Sun.

Four and half billion years ago, the sun blasted off clouds of elements and spun the rest into our solar system. Newly formed planets were hot and gaseous materials, and each of them started its own geological evolution, the Earth among them.

Over the next five hundred million years, the surface of our planet cooled, and the atmosphere around it started to form. The first rains fell, and oceans emerged. The crust of the earth rose to great mountain ranges, and minerals run off into the waters, creating in the deep sea a rich chemical womb.

Three billion nine hundred million years ago, this fertile womb gave birth to the first living cells. These beings started to organize themselves.

Over the following 200 million years the cells learned to capture energy from the sun, and developed photosynthesis. Releasing oxygen into the planetary system, over hundreds of millennia the oxygen saturated slowly the land, the air and the waters.

Two billion years ago the Earth was pushed into a condition beyond its own capacity and the vast majority of earlier cellular communities perished. Out of this crisis new advanced beings emerged.

Separate living beings merged and the first cells with nuclei appeared. They were more complex beings able to endure the oxygen and use its energy. One billion years ago the cells learned to reproduce sexually.

Four hundred million years later single celled beings gathered together and created the first multi-cellular being. Animal life flourished on Earth, in the shape of worms and spiders, clams, snails and insects.

Ninety million years later, the first fish moved through the ocean, developing the first nervous systems.

Fifty million years later algae was left on shore, and unable to crawl back, they adapted to life on land, joining the insects.

Thirty five million years later plants developed wood cells and slowly progressed into tree canopies covering continents with life.

Thirty million years later insects became the first creatures to fly in the sky.

Twenty five million years later fish followed plants and insects onto the land, becoming amphibians and reptiles.

Thirty five million years later dinosaurs spread across the Earth.

Twenty million years later (215 million years ago), mammals emerged from the reptiles.

Sixty five million years later birds crossed the skies.

Thirty million years after flowers appeared in colors and shapes (120 million years ago).

Sixty five million years ago an astronomical collision brought mass extinction of species. Birds and mammals proliferated after the disaster.

Sixty one million years after (four million years ago) our early ancestors stood up on two legs and roamed African plains.

3,800,000 years later (200 thousand years ago) modern Homo sapiens emerged.

165,000 years later (35 000 years ago) humans started migrating across the Bering land bridge, travelling through North and South America, starting rituals, music and festivals to celebrate seasons and the dead. Cave paintings expressed their art.

By ten thousand years ago humans settled, domesticating animals and plants, securing food and enabling populations to surge in small villages. Pottery, weaving, architecture and calendars ere developed. Rituals and shrines to the Great Mother replaced the totemic animals.

Five thousand years ago urban civilizations formed with soaring populations, with military systems to protect power and accumulated wealth.

Three thousand years ago the Classical Religions emerged, with Moses, Buddha, Lao Tzu and Confucius. The Mayan civilization flourished, and later Jesus and Mohammed led to the rise of Christianity and Islam.

One thousand five hundred years later the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment emphasized rationalism as preferable to religious faith. Two hundred fifty years ago the Industrial Revolution boosted man's confidence to control nature and use its resources.

In the last sixty years the world population tripled, from 2.2 billion to over 7 billion, and today we are using, in essence, a planet and a third in terms of resources (a third being the non-renewable resources).

Using a one-year scale, if the Solar System formed in the first second of January, the Industrial Revolution happened in the last half second of the year.

Now to add one more perspective to this, up to 1950 we believed our galaxy was the entire universe. Today we know that there is a metagalaxy that contains billions of other galaxies. And that metagalaxy is just our universe. In fact, there may be million, perhaps billions of other universes in what we now call the 'meta-verse'.

How is that for a little perspective on the dimension of our struggles and passions! Does it change how you feel about the challenges of your day? About the words that someone said that upset you, about the disappointment you felt as something didn't work out as you expected? Nobel physicist Frank Wilczek observes that we humans contain a microcosm and sense the macrocosm around us, and by understanding better the world with those complex dimensions, we gain new perspectives of who we are, and what our place in the world is. A richer and more realistic understanding, that Wilczek reflects, can guide us to enrich the life we are given.

So I ask you: Does it re-dimension the size of your worries? With that scale in mind, what do you think is really important, what matters most?

Source: Adapted from The Cosmic Walk, a ritual created by Sr. Miriam MacGillis of Genesis Farm.