What’s that? Do you feel it? You’re reading and there is no one else around, maybe just your pet or the sound of a ticking clock. That little feeling that may be creeping up on you just might be humankind’s worst punishment… loneliness.
Okay, maybe you aren’t lonely. Maybe you’re sitting around in the most populated popular club reading this. I don’t know and I don’t care. We are alone. Even if we aren’t really alone in the grand scheme of things, we’re so far away that we’re basically alone. What am I talking about? Earth. Our little solar system (93 million miles wide). Who cares? I do. And apparently, everyone who plays Mass Effect, likes Star Wars, enjoys Interstellar, and buys into sci-fi in its purest form. Featured above is what I like to call the Time-Out Orb (or sphere if you prefer). It’s where humanity grew up and where we’re stuck right now. Some of the little people on the Time-Out Orb would like to leave and do a pretty good job of convincing us that we should leave too. As interesting as that would be, it doesn’t make sense for everyone, nor for the majority of people. At least not yet.
We often wonder if there is other life out there in the universe and to say no just seems kind of ridiculous considering how much stuff and space there is. Why should we here on Earth be so special? There are lots of other opportunities for other living things to thrive. But here is the real question: would you or I ever actually have the opportunity to visit those other people, plants, animals, or just things in general? Let’s start small.
The Earth is 238,900 miles away from the Moon. It took the Apollo astronauts about 3 days to get there, which really isn’t all that bad. The smallest distance between Earth and Mars is about 33.9 million miles, a gargantuan difference compared to the distance between us and the Moon. But still, it’s doable. Still, that isn’t what I’m talking about.
What I’m talking about is the insurmountable distance between us and the big stuff: the stuff really far away even though we can see it. The distance between Earth and the nearest galaxy, Andromeda is 2.537 million light years, in miles that’s 1.49 x 10 to the 24th power. Not trying to be entirely accurate here, that’s about 149000000000000000000000000 miles. Let me be the first to say… that’s never going to happen.
So maybe I jumped the cosmological gun a bit and picked something impossible, right off the bat. Let’s pick something a little closer. What would it take for a human being to feel the warmth of another sun? Our nearest star is Alpha Centauri, about 4.3 light-years from Earth. What’s that in miles again? Oh, right, 2.528 x 10 to the 13th power. Again, without the accuracy, that looks something like 25,280,000,000,000,000. That’s 25 quadrillion miles. How far did the astronauts take? 238,900 miles in 3 days? At that rate, it would take you about 8.7 x 10 to the 7th power (869,739,731.8) years. I don’t have 870 million years on my hands, do you?
Face it. We’re stuck in our solar system unless we somehow discover warp speed (HUMOR). That is why this is the Time-Out-Orb. Our possible extraterrestrial friends are out there having fun and we’re stuck together with just us. Just dogs and plants and animals and hamsters and spiders and elongated muskrats and fish and Lawrence Fishburn and Megaladon teeth and ancient meat eaters and… Maybe it’s not so bad.
Maybe while the rest of the universe is out there partying or dying out, we can make friends with the other kids in detention. We’re like the Breakfast Club on a global scale. And my bet is that when we do set foot on those other planets that dwell so near to us, we’ll be reminded of just how well we have it here. Think about that the next time you feel bummed out because life frustrates you. It doesn’t disintegrate your problems, but it certainly helps you feel a whole lot less lonely.