Random Musing: On Telescopes

When I was young, I believed telescopes were used indoors. I would look through the eyehole while pointing the gigantic instrument at a couch or a bowl of apples, only to see blurry splotches of color. I was confused as to how something so clear could become so cloudy and difficult to see.

Now, as I look up at the night sky and see the objects above with clarity, I reflect on how I mistakenly used the telescope. I become aware of the smallness of my perspective. Contrary to what many might believe—that this is a random, general thought—I see it as a very intricate and perhaps positive and reassuring idea. My rationale behind this deeper perspective is based on ordinary observations within my hectic, preoccupied student life, somehow manifesting into a much greater belief and perhaps even lending me some serenity along the way.

graphic by <span class="credit credit- "><a href="/credit/"Melody/" title="View all of this person's work">"Melody</a></span>

graphic by Melody Tang

My laptop shut down unexpectedly for the eighth time today. I lost unsaved documents, highlighted parts of New York Times articles for further reading, and that one tab I know I’m supposed to look at eventually but never do. It’s moments like these—well, many moments like these: when one of my dangling shoelaces inevitably threatens to trip me in my haste to reach my next class or when I promise to wake up ten minutes earlier, only to hit the snooze button because sleep is just as precious a commodity as time—when I’m wrapped up in my daily chaos, that I assume my problems cannot compare to anyone else’s. I tend to place myself in the center of the universe and fail to see just how minimal these problems really are.

However, when I allow myself the time to compare these minor inconveniences to the problems of other people—problems much more grave and pressing faced by those inherently less privileged—I realize the relative significance of my problems. Every person on this planet has different complications in their life, but how we cope with those complications is what truly defines us.
With respect to the universe, I took the narrowness of my perspective very, very literally. From Planck epoch, the first moment of meaningful time, to the formation of the solar system, to the evolution of Homo sapiens, modern man—our moment in time is infinitesimally small. Once you take a minute to sit down and realize that you, as a human being, are a microscopically tiny piece of dust compared to the rest of the universe, you truly do become aware of the limits of your perspective. Zoom out of planet Earth and you’ll find that Earth looks like just that—a beautiful blue-colored marble, floating among other celestial bodies in our visible fraction of the universe.

None of this depresses me. In fact, it gives me somewhat of a mood-booster when I feel discouraged or unmotivated. It’s a coping mechanism when I am faced with frustrating inconveniences—to feel my smallness among the vastness of something so immense yet so magnificent. This should by no means depress you, either. See your limited perspective as an opportunity to change the way you approach your problems.

It might take a while to put your entire life under this complex, multi-faceted viewing lens. So do what I did. Take a few worries or problems from PHS that you wish weren’t so frustrating, and try to reason with them in a new, positive way. Anxious about that bad test grade? Remember that you’re fortunate enough to have an education in the first place. Frustrated with the sunlight that keeps shining in your eyes during class? Try to understand that if Earth wasn’t at its precise distance from the sun, we wouldn’t receive the amount of sunlight that keeps us warm.

The next time you feel completely and utterly overwhelmed with a checklist of things to do, remember that your problems are all relative. The universe will keep existing (it’s actually scientifically impossible for the universe to stop existing because of our problems). And since the universe continues to exist, take a moment to look down at the sidewalk to see that crawling ant. And then another moment to look up at the sprawling night sky through a telescope. Be aware of the smallness of many perspectives. This just may help you get through the challenges of your day as a human being existing among the infinite possibilities of the universe.

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