Monday, July 7, 2014

Our atoms

The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.
- Neil deGrasse Tyson
"Have you ever thought about how small we are?"

We were walking in an empty parking lot. It was too late for it to be called night, but too early for the sun to be out. I hesitated, kicking an empty soda can before answering.

"Well yeah, of course. We talk about our height in feet as if it really matters, but in the grand scheme of things who gave a damn how big we were down to the inch when there are mountains and valleys that span for miles." I saw this caused my friend to wrinkle his brow further. He crushed the can I had kicked.

"No, I get that. What I mean is...have you ever thought about the atoms that make up our being? Don't you feel so...temporary? Knowing that we're built from little bits of stuff that are so unbelievably small? We could blow away at any moment." He looked at me for a second too long before he continued walking, taking out a cigarette and lighting it with a cheap, plastic lighter. I watched the glowing red end as it inched towards his face.

Temporary? I wasn't sure if that was the word. Looking up at the night that was now pale with the promise of morning, I thought of how it seemed as though the sky was absolute, the ground unyielding. But these things were just as temporary as us, weren't they? Why didn't we perceive ourselves as definite as the canvas above and below us? I shook my head. No, temporary was not the word. 

"Well, maybe we're small in stature but I wouldn't say we're temporary. Think about how important we are." He looked at me before exhaling a cloud of smoky vulnerability.

"Go on."

"I mean, think about how many little atoms determine the state of our universe, our world, our life. We've been built by the same things that are building black holes and moons and stars. Aren't you thankful? If we weren't important, why would atoms bother forming into us?" 

He nodded slowly, but shook his head to match. "Right, but what if they didn't decide all this? What if our existence is all up to coincidence?" He put out his cigarette though it was only half finished. But unlike the fire he had just extinguished, I could feel myself becoming more and more taken with the idea. If we were all a coincidence, it had to have been a goddamn miracle.  I felt excitement pushing beneath my skin, unspoken word willing to be spoken. It was as if the very atoms I was made of knew this was their one chance to have a voice and speak their mind. I completely turned my body towards him, and continued in an even stronger tone.

"Well, if we're so small in relation to this huge universe, it makes it even better, doesn't it? I'm made of atoms that could've decided to make a million other things. Even if my existence is short and they'll be assigned for bigger causes...they actually stopped to form us for this precise moment, allowing us to have this exact conversation. Why did they choose to make you? Make me? They could be anything, they could be having a great adventure! For all my atoms care, they could be like 'Fuck it, I want to be the ocean,' right now! And that would be the end of me and they would create a sea just because they felt like it."

He smiled a little and grabbed for a new smoke without noticing. "How lucky, that out of all the atoms in this universe, our atoms came together and made us just the way we are," he agreed.

I grinned and yanked the cigarette out from between his teeth. Before he could protest, I threw it across the lot and watched as the glowing butt crashed into the asphalt. Where it touched, sand cascaded outwards, filling the emptiness with white, beachy crystals. It continued to pour and pour until the entire place was an inconceivable shore. The smoke billowing from the cigarette transformed into large waves of salt water, crashing at precisely where the sand had ended its abrupt emergence. It splashed into the air, giving it life and movement. It became heavy and restless, grabbing at me to move forwards. I clutched my friend's hand, and we began to run, slowly at first, before gaining momentum. There was something that wouldn't let me stop and to me this was freeing. We reached the edge of a cliff and I could hear our laughter intertwine as we leaped off effortlessly.

In midair, I looked at him and saw he was looking back. It felt like the cosmos themselves were billowing around us, our atoms colliding and remaining separate but also coming together as one. The entire universe was surging within us, probing and kissing us with reminders that we are eternal and connected to things bigger than we can ever imagine.


That was the word. I smiled and closed my eyes as we crashed into the newborn sea.


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