In researching some possible future topics for the show, I ran across this documentary video, called Powers of Ten, which is described in the opening credits as “A film dealing with the relative size of things in the universe.” It’s got a 70s era, old school educational filmstrip vibe to it, but it’s also pretty profound in the way it places human beings in relationship to both the universe and elementary particles.
Watching the film reminds me of a seasick gut sensation I used to get as a kid whenever I tried to wrap my mind around the idea (picked up in Sunday school) that God had never been born, but rather God had always existed. Or when I tried to contemplate the idea (probably gleaned from some Carl Sagan show) that the universe had no end, and just goes on and on forever. Or when I would stare out the window on car trips at passing houses and get little glimpses of peoples’ lives through their windows or their back yards. And I would think about how every human being on the planet has a life and a consciousness that is just as rich and complicated as mine, but that I would never know anything about the vast majority of those people; their lives would just continue to go on and on, completely independent of me.
I would lie in bed late at night and think about these things and feel like I was falling. And it occurs to me as I write this that I haven’t had that same visceral reaction to mystery since I was a little kid. It’s hard not to recall those childhood revelations without seeing them as a little dated and contrived, not unlike a low budget 70s era educational filmstrip.