My fascination with space began during my teen years. I was gripped by the not-so-obvious reality that we are dangerously hurling through an unfathomably vast vacuum of blackness among stars, planets, galaxies, nebulae, and God knows what else. The entirety of of humanity rests on the point of a needle with little room for error amidst this uninhabitable blackness. And yet, we feel quite comfortable here. So comfortable, in fact, that most of the time we don’t notice it.

During those early teen years I committed to the bucket list item of all bucket list items: to stand on the Moon and watch an Earth-rise. I geared my college studies towards this end, starting with a major choice of Aerospace Engineering, until I realized I didn’t enjoy math or engineering. Or college. So I resolved to live my Earthly life in line with my own natural abilities, and to watch the space tourism industry grow from afar, with the hope that one day we could both succeed enough for me to purchase a ticket to the moon.

Since the dawn of consciousness we have looked up. We have spent thousands of years watching and wondering about the mysterious night sky above us. Watching so intently that we started noticing patterns. We noticed the phases of the moon, we noticed the constellations, we noticed the way the sky changes with the seasons. And that’s where I found myself last weekend, west of the Great Salt Lake where the city’s light pollution is dimmed, with my camera set up to shoot the comet and my gaze stuck upward scanning across this ever present dark mystery.

Like most of us, I often forget about this reality as my focus follows the day to day tasks and ambitions of my Earthly life. But from time to time something snaps my attention back upward. Recently it was when I discovered the Neowise Comet online. This comet was formed as part of the debris from one of the early collisions of matter that formed the very solar system we call home. We’ve never recorded the existence of this comet before, since the last time we would have had the chance to see it was around 4780 BC. It is caught in the Sun’s gravity well just like we are, only it spends most of its time in the far outer solar system, coming back to make a brief appearance every 6800 years.

So I went out to the Salt Flats to feast my eyes upon this literal once-in-a-lifetime event. I took several photographs throughout the night, but most of my time was spent looking up at the cosmos above with my naked eyes. There’s almost nothing more human than the act of looking up. This very act is symbolic of how we live our lives, trying to master what we can of our own small domain but unable to grasp the vastness of what lies beyond. While my eyes were fixed upward, I felt a deep connection to the whole of humanity – to everyone who has spent a moment confronting the unreachable. I was struck by the beauty that lay before me. I was reminded of the miracle of human life, and the even more confusing miracle of human consciousness. Everything for a moment fell into proper perspective, and as I lay there, I felt reality looking at me more deeply and profoundly than I could look at it.

Look up.

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