A Point of Perspective – Our Place in the Universe

This world has over 7 billion people
Living among untold myriad lifeforms
On a planet circling a star,
Pulsing heat alongside the galaxy’s millions more.
And this enormous galaxy, mother of countless stars:
One small clump among a cosmic ocean of them.
All in a universe that is billions of years old.

Yet, you worry about the meaning in your life,
In your day,
In this instant.

Banalities of consumption
And a navel-gazing rendition of “me”
Those certainly must be
Of universal concern.

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When I was young, I used to entertain myself this way before falling asleep. In my mind’s eye I would see myself lying in bed. I would zoom back like a camera to include my house in my neighborhood in Boulder, in Colorado, in the United States of America, on the continent of North America. Then I would look at the planet like a globe, including India, where I was born; Tibet, where my father and mother were born; and Scotland, where I learned to speak English. Then I would picture Earth as a beautiful blue sphere floating in blackness. I would make the picture bigger, including other planets in our solar system with the sun in the center. The most amazing thing was to see earth disappearing into the darkness as a speck. Then I would imagine the outer planets of the solar system. The sun would disappear as I imagined all the stars in our galaxy, which seemed endless. I would dissolve our galaxy into one star, one light, and make that light very tiny, surrounded by other lights in the darkness, which weren’t stars, but galaxies. Then I would think about how small I was, and how strange and wonderful it is to have been born.

Everybody we know was born. Everyone we see was once a baby. First they weren’t here, and then they were. We don’t often contemplate birth–we’re too busy worrying about money, food, the way we look, the way other people look, what other people are thinking about the way we look. But birth is a profound passage. Seeing a chick peeking its way out of an egg is moving and powerful. Even though in being born we suffer, birth can happen in such love, such openness. And like death, birth shows us the fragility of life.

We’re just these tiny vulnerable beings riding on a blue dot in space. Yet sometimes we act as if we’re the center of the universe. The enlightened alternative is to appreciate how incredibly rare and precious human life is. The enlightened alternative is to appreciate everything. By appreciating whatever we encounter, we can use it to further our journey of warriorship. We are good as we are, and it is good as it is. Once we have this understanding, we’ll see that we are living in a sacred world.

— Sakyong Mipham, Turning the Mind into an Ally, pp. 140-143

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