Reading the Science section of the New York Times* this morning while sipping coffee I chanced upon an article detailing an astronomical observation of a supernova, a dying star that exploded and whose light and existence we are still witnessing one billion years later. Imagine that! We can look back through time and see something a billion years in the past right now in the present moment as though the star, its planets, and living things, if any, were still here with us. Imagine that!

Now I know that what we are seeing is the gross radiation of the star that in its own space and time no longer exists and the resolution is nowhere near what it would need to be to discern its planets and their life. However, this got me to thinking what if the resolution were powerful enough to see not only the star and its planets but the people on one of those planets and to be able to follow their emanations across their life cycle? We would be witnessing individuals who are living and being across a billion years of history as though they were still here. Beings a billion years old, Imagine that! Imagine someone from a galaxy millions and billions of years away with the technology to watch you live your life.

At some level we are all just data expressed as a living entity. But this data never ends when we end. The data from each of our lives outlives us by unimaginable time spans. A scientist would tell you that this data might not be cohesive enough to stretch that far across time and would become hopelessly corrupted to be almost unrecognizable. Even though the first law of thermodynamics suggests that energy cannot be created or destroyed and that according to the second law it will over time increase in its disorder, at the point of observation we may be witnessing what was so a billion years ago. A single life may be witnessed yet again a billion times over. Imagine that! 

From the perspective of some imagined observer our actions whether they be good, evil, or stupid will live forever. Our hate, self-centeredness, self-righteousness, bigotry, ignorance, grief, joy, compassion, passion, and love will be projected outward into the universe for all time to see.

From the perspective of a creator of the universe, if there be one, our existence can live on indefinitely. I think we’d better shape up if we’re going to be around that long.


*page D2, April 18, 2023

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