There is something indefinably magical in space. Mankind has looked upwards for centuries, always wanting to know more. Where did we come from? Why does the rain fall? What Gods make lightening? What have we done to make the Gods angry? What are stars made of? How did the universe begin? How will it end? How can we see further and further into a mystery always just beyond reach?
Ancient civilizations had cause to fear the sky. In the modern world, however, we have lost any sense of fear and wonder about that which suspends our tiny planet in the vastness of space and time. The ability for the majority of us to experience the universe first hand is small. Astronauts are heroes because they dare to step into the vastness that has frightened and awed and puzzled mankind since our first ancestor rose onto two legs and looked towards the sky.
Did dinosaurs ponder the wonders of space? Fish? Lions? Horses? Even the small one-celled amoeba? The creatures of this world don’t need to ponder space because they are space. Instinctively, they know their connection to the universe, something we forgot long ago when we chose to divide and accept ‘he’ is different than ‘me’.
So why does the sound of a machine beeping in space open up such a vast emptiness inside me? Awe that, even though the sounds were recorded over 40 years ago, makes me shiver, forces me to admit I, too, am part of the wonder of the universe. Sounds which make me feel something opening inside me in a way I have never experienced before; connects me to the universe in a way I never imagined possible.
I am, you are, every living thing in this world and beyond, not to mention rocks and chairs and books, and computers, are made of starstuff. We see solids when, in reality, the atoms from which we are made are simply gathered together and pretending to be the solids called ‘me’ or ‘you’ or ‘Fido.’ The same as a star 40 million light years away is pretending to be the solid called ‘star.’ I am ‘me,’ but I am also Sputnik, forty years ago, sending the sounds of infinity back to the’ me’ on earth listening this very moment.
What awe would fill this world if we all understood, down to the tiniest particle of our being, that we aren’t different. We are all made of the same stuff as the stars. We all feel that deep instinctive pull towards knowing, understanding, who we are and where we belong in this infinite universe.
Perhaps that is what the beeping of Sputnik reminds us. Somewhere out there, beyond our sight, in the blackness both outside and inside us, there is an emptiness we all understand – loneliness, fear, death – but we do not need to be afraid. We are one. No matter the vastness between the stars, or between two neighbors, there is always a bridge, always a connection of starstuff binding us together.