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Helix Nebula


“The Helix nebula is worth reflecting on. Begin by gazing at the little tadpole-like objects at the upper right. These little balls of gas with their long tails are given their own name by astronomers—”cometary knots.” But what’s wonderful is that each of these cometary knots is twice the size of our entire solar system. Something wonderful happens to one’s consciousness when—staring at what could be a tadpole—one suddenly realizes that this system is in fact vaster than the entire Earth, vaster than the distance from Earth to Sun, vaster even than the distance out to that tiny light we call Jupiter in the night sky.

“We don’t really know what these cometary knots are headed toward. The guess is that they will grow cold and dark and will then dissipate. But sometimes when I’m staring at them I pretend that they are in fact enroute to becoming solar systems all by themselves. It helps me remember that throughout the Milky Way there are clouds of such gas collapsing, even now, into new solar systems. All of it via the same dyanamics that created our Sun and Earth. That’s the great thing. The same creative energy is at work in the cometary knots, as in the birth of new stars, as in our bodies as we wake up and drag ourselves down to Starbucks and wonder about the day. We are that same energy with the added burden and privilege and knowing that in fact we are the creative energy of the universe.”

— Brian Swimme