The Center of the Universe

An article last week in the New York Times has me thinking in a whole new way about my place in the universe. Dennis Overbye (the article’s author) explains it much better than I can here.

If you don’t have time to read the article, I’ll summarize it for you: We are, each one of us, at the center of our own universe.

Using Einstein’s theory of relativity as the basis for his argument, Overbye says that everything that we experience through our senses has had to travel some amount of time (no faster than the speed of light) before it reaches us. Everything that we can possibly see, hear, feel, or otherwise sense has already happened. Whether it’s a star, a planet, the moon, the girl next door, or the raindrop that just hit your face, it’s in the past. We’re looking out at the past from our own unique point in the present, which he calls the center of the universe.

Overbye goes on to say, “Your eyes are the cockpit of a time machine, filmy wet orbs looking in the only direction any of us can ever look: backward.”

Or, I picture it like this:

We’re all reflections on the outside of a gigantic soap bubble, gazing toward the inside of the bubble, where our pasts reside. From time to time we’re able to make tiny ripples in the surface, which can affect our futures, but we’re unable to turn around and glimpse our futures. Meanwhile, the bubble keeps expanding, and the surface tension holds us tight, until it isn’t strong enough to hold us anymore, and we disappear with an infinitesimal movement of energy and light. Are we gone, or have we just moved somewhere else? Neither I nor Dennis Overbye can answer that one.

I’m thinking about my past now, and also about how I can make more positive ripples in my present. In fact, I’ll start right now by signing off and going outside to take in some sunshine that left the surface of the sun about 8 minutes ago.


My new photo book about the Pacific Northwest, “Standing in the Surf,” is available in e-book and paperback formats here:

2 thoughts on “The Center of the Universe

    1. Good question, Jim! It was just a picture I had in my mind, of clinging to the outside of a bubble, and a bubble reflects light, so maybe we are reflecting light? God? love? Whatever it is, it seems like a good thing to me … but I don’t feel smart enough to really understand what’s going on! (Marvin Gaye reference)


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