Sometimes timing is everything. On the heels of a recent post mentioning the not so ironic development over the last twenty years expanding the number of extra-solar planets in the universe, I came across this MSNBC article suggesting that we’ve now moved from zero in 1990 to 160 billion today. That’s a pretty big jump.
I have long used this astronomical reference as a metaphor for expanding our individual world view beyond what we know into the realm of what could be. Our history is filled with examples of things humanity once thought impossible that now rank as commonplace. We cross the seas in hours instead of weeks, we can fly across the country in a few hours, we fit entire libraries on tablets, and so on. At some point in time most of the conveniences or things we take for granted today were considered impossible. Even the classic Theory of Relativity, Einstein’s premise that has formed the cornerstone of physics for a century lies under fire as scientists continue to gain more and more knowledge of our world and challenge the barriers it presents. Huge swaths of our reality crash to the ground as we learn more and more about the world, and us, with every passing year.
The implications to science are obvious. The implications to our own lives often escape us because the size of discoveries like this can be hard to equate to our every day. But the difference is small. Every day we believe we can’t achieve sometimes the smallest dreams – some extra free time, a little less stress for just a moment, or a night out. Even harder then can be the idea that we can achieve something great, in our own definitions, because the barriers appear too great. We throw around the words like “can’t” and “impossible” as if they ever had any meaning, and define our possibilities accordingly.
Since I started this post, apparently a lot of astronomers are surprised by their own recent findings. I get it, we’ve discovered something great. At the same time I wonder why the astonishment, because there are, as Carl Sagan once introduced “billions and billions” of stars out there. The question shouldn’t have been whether planets existed around most of them but, from day one, how many could there be. Starting from that premise might have gotten us to this end more quickly. Perhaps not, but the dialogue would have been different.
The same holds true for you. Dream in terms of possibility, not in terms of what cannot be done. Think about what you would like for your life – not in terms of things so much as quality – and don’t deny yourself the opportunity to achieve it because of a lack of belief. You’d be surprised how many more doors open themselves when you try the handle, and on the other side might just be greatness.
Be a star. There are at least one and a half heavenly bodies circling you right now. Who knows what they hold.