It must have been within a couple of years of 2005, but in which direction I cannot remember, because that is the year that I triumphantly completed AP Physics under the illumination of Konstantinos Alexakos, a supergiant of a teacher, around whom lesser life events have dwarfed and realigned. With the sponsorship of an adult very dear to me, I acquired a ticketed seat within the belly of the Hayden Planetarium: until that day only the fifth-largest room I had ever been in. In the electric flash I am about to recall, with the help of Tom Hanks’ voice, the planetarium both vaulted to first place… and became the reason I no longer keep such a list.
The silence and darkness swelled and pressed upon my skin. I smiled hard, giddy… my Ticket to a Seat had been upgraded to a Passport to the Universe. No one shivered or squeaked from their seats around me, we all joined imaginary hands and began to shrink. Over the next 15 minutes, the camera zoomed out from the streets of New York to the system of Alpha Centauri, the edges of the Milky Way to the first observed galactic superclusters (I had always thought a bright spot in the sky had to be a star– now it could also be a galaxy), passing, of course, through a whole lot of nothing, so much nothing that even at fictitious speeds exponentially greater than that of light (Alpha Centauri in 3 minutes, Messier 77 in 10, and the Ophiuchus Supercluster in 11), I felt like I was casually floating along, but I was probably tearing the cosmos a new one at every change in direction. Even Tom Hanks didn’t appear disturbed by it all. At the 13 minute mark the camera slowed down, having reached the edge of the observable universe. I looked upon the superclusters– they glowed warmly, forming a strange, recently-discovered web of filaments reaching its threads across hundreds of millions of light years…..
…I squinted at the image, to stop my eyes from darting along the strings and gaps, looking for something familiar, anything familiar. The camera stopped moving. The cosmos hung there, breathing, glowing, and through my narrowed eyes I suddenly realized I had seen this kind of web before….
I realized they kinda look like neurons.
So what if it goes on forever, and that our universe is just one cell, one very empty atom, hanging on the string of a neuron, side by side with another universe, and another universe next to that, and another, and thousands more, all in a row on the path a flash of electricity takes, illuminating each one in its brief turn along the way like a great teacher does, to a node where it awakens a momentary image, a dot of color, a darkened room, in the memory of another person, a pretty big person, smiling and squinting up at a pretty big sky….?
Like in the ending of Men In Black?