As you’re reading this, most likely I’m outside a caribou tent up north in Canada.
Staring up at the Aurora Borealis.
I’m taking a vacation with my parents who are visiting me from Australia, and the Northern Lights have been on my bucket list for a long time.
The stars have long held a fascination for me. I still remember traveling by bus through the Atacama desert in Chile, watching the stars slowly rotate through the sky. And standing with my brother Gus on the edge of Ngukurr airfield in Australia’s North, the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon.
Beyond Time and Space
Three things occur to me when I remember to get away from the light pollution of Toronto and have a chance to stare up into the sky.
1. I’m reminded of just how small I am in this universe. A speck of carbon on a speck of dirt. (If you’re not quite sure how small, then this scale of the universe tool will blow your mind.)
2. I’m reminded how lucky I am to be alive right now. Forget for now the various quirks of the universe that allow life to flourish here—everything from the size of the moon to the fact that ice floats (the only solid that’s lighter than its liquid form). I’m taken by the fact that, as the universe is expanding, it means all the stars in the sky are moving away from us, which means that our night sky is only getting darker. We’ll never see as many stars in the sky as we’ll see right now.
3. The constellations remind me of the stories that I sometimes use to make sense of my life. I don’t know most of them, but I do know the labors of Hercules.
And at the Heart of It All
I know it’s a theme I keep returning to, but all of those questions above—all prompted by me looking up to the heavens—keep me circling back to what really matters.
As I’m that insignificant, why not strive mightily in pursuit of what I care about most?
As I’m that lucky, why not stop more often to notice and relish the world around me?
As I’m the hero in my own story, what might my twelve mighty tasks be?
What’s Your Constellation?
It’s not about the stars, of course. That just happens to be my thing. I am curious to know where you might find your time and space for reflection. How do you get away from the daily habits you have to find a different place to stand and observe yourself in the world?
Michael Bungay Stanier is the Senior Partner and Founder of Box of Crayons, a company that helps organizations do less Good Work and more Great Work. He’s written a number of books, the best known of which are Do More Great Work and the philanthropic bestselling book End Malaria, which has raised more than $250,000 in for Malaria. For more on Michael, visit his website or follow him on Twitter.
*Photo by Beverly & Pack.
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