The Farthest You’ll Ever See

NASA recently released the below Hubble image. It’s a high quality (2 million second) exposure of deep space galaxies, the most distant of which are 13.2 billion light years away. What you’re seeing is not our time, but the universe as it was as far back as 13.2 billion years ago (8.7 billion years before our planet was even formed). Hubble can see no further than this, which means that you and I can see no further than this.

2012 Hubble eXtreme Deep Field

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Here’s a zoom-in video of the space field shown above:

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How absurd to be embedded in so vast a bloom of hothouse flowers! How absurd that this bloom should have bloomed us! Now we gaze deep into the “bloomscape” and see it before we were here, as a child looks at a photo of its mother before she ever knew its father.

If you had no information about your past save the above image–your only family photo!–you could infer a great deal about yourself and how your existence must go. You would know that you were born into a bouquet of flames, that you are burning now, and that you will not always burn. From fire you came, fire you are, and into darkness you must ultimately dissipate. And you would know that your brothers and sisters are everybody. We’re all cast upon this same night sea, like lighted candles rocking in wax paper boats, and nobody gets out alive.

Which raises a question: to what purpose?

Perhaps the answer is the following: when in the midst of blooms, do as the bloomers do. (That is, choose a persona; be unique and beautiful; strut your stuff.)

I think of Huckleberry Finn:

We had the sky, up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made, or only just happened.

That could be a purpose: to talk to one another about what it might all mean; to be one of the beings that contemplates the stars; to philosophize. Another purpose could be to pinwheel words; to turn dazzling phrases like Mark Twain did. Our brains are our own dark bloomings, mysterious and beautiful as those first galaxies. More so. Here’s Emily Dickinson:

The Brain — is wider than the Sky —
For — put them side by side —
The one the other will contain
With ease — and You — beside —

The Brain is deeper than the sea —
For — hold them — Blue to Blue —
The one the other will absorb —
As Sponges — Buckets — do —

The Brain is just the weight of God —
For — Heft them — Pound for Pound —
And they will differ — if they do —
As Syllable from Sound —

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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