On Cosmos, Smallness, Divinity, and Love

Photo Credit: Yen M. Tang & Cylinda Parga

Photo Credit: Yen M. Tang & Cylinda Parga

When K turned on the new show Cosmos, I was hesitant. A show about the infinite universe? With cartoons? And the opening sequence. Something about it took me back to middle school when my science teacher, too busy grading to bother with teaching, stuck in a Bill Nye video. I picked up my moleskine and pen, prepared for boredom, except the show wasn’t boring at all. Neil deGrasse Tyson delved into time, the nature of the universe, and our place within it. And it was fascinating. If we look at time as one calendar year, he said, we as known humanity comprise one second. 

It made me feel small. Very small.

Of course I always knew that. I’m one among billions alive today, and one among unknowable bajillions to have ever walked the earth. When it comes to time, when it comes to the size of the Universe [or multiverse!] what am I beyond an atom, if that, in the context of it all?

The show makes you think about how little we know and how short time is.As I watched it I expected to feel somewhat depressed by this fact and the atomic teeny-ness of existence, but instead I felt astounded by the sheer magnificence of this universe I inhabit. I know Tyson is an agnostic but seeing this made me think of Surat Fatiha revealed so long ago, describing the Creator as the master of the worlds. Plural. Seeing this show felt like a glimpse into an unknowable Divine wonderment.

And as small as being small can feel, it’s also a beautiful reminder. People often say, if you knew you only had two days/hours/minutes left to live what would you do? It’s a good exercise, but not one to consider hypothetically. We’re all terminal. We don’t know the endgame but life is passing faster than we can blink, and with the brevity of time, we should, if we are lucky and fortunate enough to be able to do so guide our choices with the question: Life is short. What do you want to do?

For me, Of course I may want to move to Fiji and import a friendly family of Koala Bears, but really, more concretely, the answer to the question for me is: I want to love. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

I love making my one-year-old giggle. I love listening to my eldest sing through the house. I love putting my hands into the brown dirt to plant jalapenos. I love the act of drawing, an imperfect act which gives me perfect pleasure. And painting signs, with quotes I love. I love baking chocolate cakes. My family. Laughing with good friends. And I love writing. I love it more than chai itself. Three books under my belt, and outlining my fourth- as difficult as it is, as much discipline as sitting down and writing diligently each day requires and as much as it does not yet the bills pay, and as much as it may never, it is something I deeply love. While I was fortunate I was lucky enough to be able to afford to leave my job, it was scary to leave behind a paycheck I’d gotten used to since I turned 15 years old… but it’s been four years in this pursuit of love and while there are sacrifices, and it’s not cupcakes and rainbows every minute of every day [though there are always cupcake crumbs of some sort on my kitchen floor]watching Cosmos, remembering the brevity of time, gave me  peace with the choices I’ve made.

And every now and then I need that reminder. Sure I don’t love everything I do. [Confession: I have jury duty soon- don’t anticipate loving that. Ditto kiddie vaccinations, will do, won’t love. And my laundry? It’s from Hogwarts. It’s enchanted and keeps replenishing- constantly] but when it comes to the goals of our lives, and the things we choose to commit our time to and define our lives by, if we are lucky enough to be in a place where we have such choices– knowing how short it all is can perhaps remind one to not make choices based on what we fear others may think, for some perceived social status, or whatever other external markers we may use to judge ourselves.

Instead I’d like to make my goal to make choices through the lens of love. Time’s really too short for any other way. And Love? Love is the purest part of us. Love is the essence of the Divine; that is why it resides so deeply and innately within us. By centering my intent in this way, maybe I can take myself, this very small self in this infinite beautiful universe that Cosmos describes, and do beautiful things for those I love, with those I love, in pursuit of the dreams and hopes I love and somehow in a tiny microscopic way, maybe this will make a small positive change in the way of the world.

Read more by Aisha on this site, here.

Aisha Saeed was born and raised in South Florida. She writes YA and is represented by Taylor Martindale of Full Circle Literary. You can read more of her writing here or follow along on Facebook or Twitter.  She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two sons. Her debut novel Written in the Stars will be released by Penguin in 2015.