At 19, I read a sentence that re-terraformed my head: “The level of matter in the universe has been constant since the Big Bang.”
In all the aeons we have lost nothing, we have gained nothing - not a speck, not a grain, not a breath. The universe is simply a sealed, twisting kaleidoscope that has reordered itself a trillion trillion trillion times over.
Each baby, then, is a unique collision - a cocktail, a remix - of all that has come before: made from molecules of Napoleon and stardust and comets and whale tooth; colloidal mercury and Cleopatra’s breath: and with the same darkness that is between the stars between, and inside, our own atoms.
When you know this, you suddenly see the crowded top deck of the bus, in the rain, as a miracle: this collection of people is by way of a starburst constellation. Families are bright, irregular-shaped nebulae. Finding a person you love is like galaxies colliding. We are all peculiar, unrepeatable, perambulating micro-universes - we have never been before and we will never be again. Oh God, the sheer exuberant, unlikely fact of our existences. The honour of being alive. They will never be able to make you again. Don’t you dare waste a second of it thinking something better will happen when it ends. Don’t you dare.
THE SCALE OF ETERNITY (1999) by Michael Whelan
Oil on Gessoboard - 25” x 40”
On close examination the linear form the man is climbing is marked with gradations like a ruler. At the time I painted SCALE, I was thinking a lot about our innate drive to quantify, judge or rate aspects of our collective human experience. We can’t seem to overcome our need to define the best, the prettiest, the most powerful or the biggest.
But do not start blaming who you love nor apportioning blame. It will all be apportioned in due time and not by you.