“When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and after, the little space which I fill, and even can see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant, and which know me not, I am frightened, and am astonished at being here rather than there; for there is no reason why here rather than there, why now rather than then. Who has put me here? By whose order and direction have this place and time been allotted to me? . . . The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me.”
—Blaise Pascal, 17th century mathematician.
Lying in bed at night, many of us have attempted to grasp and comprehend eternity. What does it actually mean for time to go on forever? What does it feel like to be dead forever? Damn, these questions used to terrify me. An inability to grasp infinity (which I think is common across all humans that have ever lived) is most commonly faced with dizzying fear and has the potential to send us into an abyss of existential meaninglessness. Only recently have I allowed my failure to truly understand deep time serve as a form of inspiration. With lives of such brevity, why would we spend our precious time in fear of the unknown? It seems like an awful waste of the infinitely unlikely existence that we occupy! We have the beautiful opportunity to wake each day into a world full of mystery and face the challenges it presents us with. One of these challenges includes (for those interested) pondering eternity and voluntarily facing our inevitable deaths. A daunting task, indeed, but not one that should scare us! For being eternally dead is not scary—it is the thought of being dead for eternity that is scary. With practice, I truly believe that it is possible to be in full control of our thoughts, and therefore, our fears. Far exceeding the difficulty of learning any sport, academic discipline, or instrument, mastering the mind lies at the pinnacle of human challenges. We might as well try.
Photo credit: Cassini, NASA