Can I take you on a journey?
It begins in the hazy state between asleep and awake, when you’re sort of in control of your thoughts but sort of not and
And you’re dreaming/thinking about space and the incomprehensible hugeness of it, and you’re imagining that you are a space traveler, a thought as terrifying as it is tantalizing, and something goes wrong, you become unmoored, and in the cold, pitiless vacuum of space there is no way to stop and you know that you are going to drift inexorably, inevitably, in absolute isolation
And you jolt back to consciousness and remember where you are and you see your wife sleeping beside you and you think about how we live in a world where you can have a thousand Facebook friends and a million Twitter followers and it still wouldn’t be enough because what it all comes down to is the very deep need for real human contact, and that no matter how strong and wise and independent you become in this life you need to know that you will always have at least one person by your side, and that even a lone voice in the dark would be better than nothing just so long as you wouldn’t ever have to be
And now you can’t sleep so you crawl out of bed and pad down the hall to take a quick peek at your kids, whose health and happiness are more important than anything else, and the sight of their peaceful, sleeping bodies reminds you of both the resilience and fragility of life on this planet, and what fantastically complex, vulnerable machines our bodies are, with thousands of tiny parts performing millions of tiny functions to ensure that our brains keep ticking and hearts keep beating and our
So you head outside and look up at the night sky – hundreds of billions of galaxies filled with hundreds of billions of stars around which must orbit so many planets and moons that if you were to write down the exact number you would need a piece of paper from here to Jupiter – and you think that even if a tiny percentage of those orbiting bodies had sparked life at some point during the universe’s 14 billion years there must be millions of other civilizations out there, but the harsh reality is that even if the universe is filled with life we will probably never meet any of our neighbours because there’s too much damn space in space and the distances are
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, and so you think about space travel and the amazing complexity and precision that is required every time someone is sent into the frighteningly hostile environment of space, like the scene in Apollo 13 where they explain that a ship re-entering Earth’s atmosphere needs to hit at a very specific angle and if it comes in too steep it burns up but if it comes in it too shallow it will skip off like a flat stone across water, and the bottom line is that, in space travel and in life in general, no matter how well you plan or how carefully you execute, all it takes to turn everything completely upside-down is
And then you think how random freak occurrences can also be good because, after all, that’s how life evolved on this planet, from that first tiny molecule that learned how to replicate itself (perhaps to avoid being alone), to that ancient ancestral critter who moved from water to land, to modern-day human beings who think, love, worry about the future, write philosophical treatises, hold global conferences and build space ships to explore our corner of the universe, and you marvel at how staggeringly far our species has come and try to imagine
And you can sit there all night thinking about these things if that’s what you want to do.
You can go back to bed, get a good night’s sleep and tomorrow head to the local movieplex and buy a ticket for Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney – a movie that is a technical marvel and a riveting action flick but is also a whole lot more – and you can put on your 3D glasses and for 91 dazzling, dizzying minutes you can watch: