Commentary, National Commentary

Editorial: Our Universe is Our Ancestor

Person No. 1 looks at the night sky and says, “Looking at the night sky makes me realize how puny and insignificant I am on the cosmic scale.”

Person No. 2 thinks, “I am the result of 14 billion years of cosmic evolution. I am a thermodynamic miracle. I am the waking universe looking back at itself.”

The James Webb Space Telescope has taken further images of the Cartwheel Galaxy, giving us further insight into how stars are formed. The “Cartwheel Galaxy” is located about 500 million light-years away in the Sculptor constellation. Photo: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

Greg M. Clark of Charlotte, NC, posted this on social media as examples of two different ways of looking at things. One comment was that it is exemplary of our amazing universe that both perspectives could be true.

But it is relevant to consider what we are now able to see with the benefit of the Webb Space Telescope are our very own ancestors, in a very real, sensual and poignant sense. It is like the universe is a giant womb and we are in it, being fed, nurtured and produced by all that we see around us.

Those distant galaxies we can now see? They’re our mommas and pappas. They and their kin caused us to exist — formed us, if you will. The Webb telescope is like the ultimate subscription to Ancestry.com.
Based on a lot of what we’ve read and heard seeking to describe this to date, there is still a strong tendency to “objectify” what we are seeing, to see it as something apart from us, albeit how massive are the distances in space and time.

But if we are to learn anything from Einstein’s relativity theory about the interconnectedness of space and time, it is that contemplating what we are now seeing from the standpoint of our normal calendars showing that Christmas is still months away and road signs that say it’s still 90 miles to Richmond do not hold at all for what we are now seeing.

This, this editorial space, is not the place to come for answers to such questions, at best just for the insistence that we seek the right questions to ask, and of course, we’re hardly sure of that either. It’s so much easier to bury oneself in the batting averages of our favorite players than to boggle our brains with such headache-inducing, sleep depriving thoughts.

Even when we seek out guidance from places that are supposed to be the experts on such grand things, our churches, synagogues or temples, we are usually left having to accept ancient mythologies or, at best, analogies, similes or metaphors, products of poetic minds. Of course God is the author of all these things around us, we are told. What more do we need to know? Ummmm….

Still, reason is by far the best tool for guiding us in this quest and we can be confident that it will ultimately provide all the answers, however many eons that may take. It is, after all, our ability to reason that is the highest development in this universe that we know of and that is consistent with all we can now see.