I made this picture on the night I saw the Milky Way for the first time. I had never seen so many stars before, and I don’t even know how my camera resolved as many pin-pricks of light as it did that night.
My camera is a newer model that certainly came off the factory assembly line within the last few months, and the lens is older than me. All three of us — the camera, the lens, and me — are pieces of this planet, momentarily suspended in the forms we have now.
When all three of us are eventually recycled, we will dissolve and assume forms of energy and matter beyond what we are today. Perhaps the energy held within a fraction of the lens’ aperture will eventually — or has already been — a maggot, or a carrot, or an ape-like creature.
Were we able to trace the family tree of our shared existence back far enough, to a singular source, we would only find ourselves. A singular existence is what we have here and now.
We are forever swirling into endless forms — all of them temporary. The sum of our existence is zero. The sum of all existence has forever been, and will forever be, zero.
We exist here and now as one form — the Universe.
Just as we can never escape ourselves, we will never escape our universe. To go beyond our universe, to pass some imaginary barrier we’ve set, that would only extend this universe beyond our previous conceptions.
We can’t experience what doesn’t exist. To experience is to exist, and to exist is to experience. The only divisions are the ones we create. We are everything, and we are nothing.
The Earth is a relatively closed system. On most nights, with a little patience, you can watch our main form of additional material arriving as shooting stars. We and our way of life will be long gone before any of that additional material means something to us.
Should we, the occupants of this relatively closed system, change the material make-up of our world too quick, we and our fellow earthlings may fail to adapt along with those changes. The Earth, Sun, Solar System and Universe will survive without us. We’ll be nothing more than our planet’s ground soil — stored potential energy.
And that’s all we’ve ever been.
Those pin-pricks of light in the photo above were here before us, and they’ll be here after us. Those lights are older than the camera that recorded them, the photographer that saw them, and the planet that supplied the materials and vantage point for both.