I often find myself feeling a sense of wonder and awe when I think about everything in the universe – from the smallest molecular interactions, to the grand movements of stars and galaxies. On the largest scales, the beauty and spectacle overpower any attempt at full comprehension, and the tiniest bits are so phenomenally weird that no one truly understands them. I realize there are scientific theories and evidences that attempt to explain it, but I am still filled with a wondrous feeling, knowing I’m connected to it all.
Rather than being created apart and unique from the rest of the living biosphere, accepting the fact that humans are part of and intimately connected to the universe makes me care intensely about every little thing that exists. I recognize kinship with not only the rest of humanity, but also with my dog who chases the rabbits, the rabbits who eat the grass, the grass which covers my lawn, and the microbes that inhabit the soils. I know that I am ancestrally related to every living creature on earth and that’s something that can’t be taken away just because I don’t believe in any deity or gods.
Some people have told me that they can’t imagine feeling awe or wonder about anything without including their god in the equation. But is a sunset any less beautiful or a starry night any less romantic if one doesn’t include god? I say that it is the same – romantic, beautiful and awe inspiring, with or without any gods. Even if love, joy, fear and sorrow are the products of a materialistic evolutionary process, that doesn’t mean I can’t experience those things with as much intensity as anyone else. If anything, knowing more about the origins and reasons behind such things only heightens the experience for me.
Carl Sagan once said that we are all “star stuff”, meaning that every single atom in our bodies was originally formed from the supernova explosions of ancient stars. I find that at once tremendously awe inspiring, and also intensely humbling. Not only am I genetically connected to every living thing on Earth, but I am also chemically related to just about every single star, planet, and mote of dust in the universe. Over the course of billions of years, those atoms and molecules coalesced into a tiny planet on the edge of the Milky Way galaxy, and after a few billion more years of chemistry and evolution, here we all are. How amazing is that!