In the beginning, there was light.
With nowhere to go but everywhere, everything that ever was burst forth until there was enough space that four fundamental forces could begin their patient work. This dense cloud of plasma slowly cooled, slumbering in darkness for a hundred million years before pinpricks of light began to shine: the first stars.
These early stars burned fast and died young, their supernovae seeding the cosmos with heavier and heavier elements. Later, tendrils and filaments of gas and dust began to coalesce in a slow dance, spiraling together to form galaxies beyond number.
As if these marvels weren’t enough, one day upon a large rock orbiting a typical star in a typical galaxy, something strange and new started to happen: small pieces of those heavier elements began to move around, seemingly of their own accord.
Like the stars and galaxies which preceded them, they began to grow and clump together, emerging into more and more complex forms and behaviors, no longer so easily explained by just four forces.
With the same inexorable patience found throughout the grander scales of the universe, this life expanded, first in the silent wriggling of slimes and worms, and then all at once, in a symphony of noise and color: ferns, trees, sharks, dinosaurs, flowers, and cats.
When did a piece of stardust first realize that it could realize anything? Faced with all this dizzying splendor, surrounded by death and life, color and light, is it any wonder we cowered in fear?
A few of us perhaps seemed less daunted by these mysteries; the rest clung to them for safety from the cold and dark. But out of every answer a larger question emerged. Unable to comprehend the glory of the heavens, unable to control the forces of nature, we imagined smaller, safer realities.
So man created gods in his own image.
But since they were born of a spirit of fear and for an illusion of control, they were perpetuated by the same means. Rather than finding comfort and safety, fear begat misery and control became oppression. We taught ourselves not to trust one another or our own senses. We learned to trust our oppressors — our abusers — instead.
They nearly convinced us that they were special but that the universe was not. They nearly convinced us that we were separate and different from everything else but that our only dignity was found in them. In closing ourselves off to the grander nature we inherited from the stars, we nearly forgot who we are.
Our fear and desire for control led us to destroy each other and our environment; if we have the courage instead to open ourselves to the darkness and the light, to the cold and the warmth, to the terrible majesty of it all, we can remember how to love ourselves and our universe. And if we’re lucky, we may begin to understand our place in it.