It’s a very big world out there!

In Small Man, Big Ideas on March 19, 2011 at 7:45 pm

I want you to think of one of the most intimate things you can do. Are you concentrating? Yes? Great. Take your time and get it right. I guess a few of you may be beginning to blush at this stage. That’s fine. I did say it was intimate. Okay, time’s up. Let me guide most of you past the bedroom where you ended up and straight into the bathroom.

I want you to picture yourself doing a number 2. Not in too much detail, I hasten to add. No 3-D glasses required. No scratch-and-sniff technology. Just little old you sitting elegantly on the throne. I’m sure you’ll agree that it doesn’t get much more personal than that. One is invariably alone when performing that particular act of nature.

Now I want you to consider a scenario that is the exact opposite. And I don’t mean the Glastonbury Festival where you’re in a huge field, hemmed in on all sides by sweaty, middle-class forty-somethings in wellingtons. I want you to think of outer space.

This is a particularly timely exercise as the boffins are telling us that we’ll be able to see a ‘super moon’ tonight – one that’s 14% bigger than normal. The sky’s forecast to be clear too, so I expect a lot of you (me included) will crane our necks for a look.

But for my extra-terrestrial task, I want you to change your normal perspective on space. To achieve this, I have to transport you as far away from Earth as possible. As far away as you can conceive. Once you’ve arrived at that distant place, you have to imagine that you can look all the way back. Past all those galaxies, milky ways, stars and planets that stretch before you for light year upon light year. You’ll need pretty good vision to achieve this, but since it’s a fantasy, we’ll take that as a given.

How insignificant does Earth look now from that infinitely faraway vantage point? It’s no more than a speck of dust. A speck of dust on which wars are fought, love is made and cookies crumble. A speck of dust where we get outraged about rich footballers, noisy children and traffic jams. But no one can hear us. All the time that Alexander The Great was conquering, Florence Nightingale was healing and Dubya was getting confused, it made not a jot of difference. What happens on our speck doesn’t matter and never will. Life on Earth appeared in a flash and will vanish just as quickly. Those of us who made a fleeting appearance (which involved frequently sitting on the loo, absorbed in ourselves) are specks of dust on a speck of dust.

Now where’s that life-and-death advertising campaign for baked beans that my client is hounding me about?


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