In our technologically insane world, the marketers have a repeated theme–make everything about our personal experience; make it all about US. Personalize your phone. Broadcast yourself. Selfies. Our vocabulary is filled with this self-centered rhetoric. It makes us feel good and important, right?
People who study big picture subjects know that we are as insignificant as the ants we accidentally crush in the garden path. Looking into a dark sky in northern Texas or eastern Nevada on a new moon makes this ever so clear. In the billions of stars in our galaxy and the billions of galaxies across the universe, our petty disappointments with internet connectivity in the plane at 30,000 feet or the new cover we bought for the cell phone don’t mean crap.
This vastness will make you rethink your own personal ideas of how you define things, like life and god. It’s what triggered why I left religion decades ago.
Driving through the Sheep Creek Canyon in the Flaming Gorge and then a day in Dinosaur National Monument strike it home on earth. Nowhere have we been where we see the changes and impacts of time in so few square miles.
Dinosaur was home to hundreds of complete dinosaur fossils–huge fossils–until some 90% were excavated and taken to museums in the early 1900s, leaving a paltry wall of skeletons for visitors to gaze at in utter awe. Thankfully, the U.S. Government had the grace and sense to preserve what’s left for us common folk to look at.
Before the dinos, huge cataclysmic forces shaped this land eons ago. We’ve been to a lot of places in this country, and nowhere yet have we seen the land that was once horizontal, with strata laid down over hundreds of thousands or millions of years, now standing vertical as a post. From sea floor to mountain side. It all happened long before the first humanoid ancestor scraped a toe on the rock it now is.
We have our CGI, our AfterEffects, our Wacom Intuos, and our digital cameras. Civilizations in this region 10,000 years ago scraped the red sandstone to create rock art (which some assholes have deemed needed to have a bullet hole in it). They depict some kind of importance, or maybe not, about their lives as the true settlers of this continent. All we can do is stand in front of it, big as life, and ponder it, while taking a picture with our smartphone.
The sides of the bluff are huge, as seen in this panning shot.
Something you don’t get is a perspective of just how big some of these petroglyphs are. In the video below, a woman stands to the left, barely seen taking a shot of the above art.
Travel lets you see things in person you usually can only glimpse in photos. And photos do not give the sense of largess, the feel of ancient rock on your palm, and realization of how the artists had to climb to a specific perch to make their art.
In the grand scheme of things, we are almost nothing, when we think we are really something. We might expound on how Avatar is an incredible technical achievement in the movie business, but it’s just the same old story we’ve seen hundreds of times. We haven’t come up with much new in a long time, except maybe better ways to customize our smart phones that have more pixels in the camera.
It feels good to look at these incredibly large expressions of time in geology, cosmology, and human existence and know we’re all so damn small in the scheme of things. A lot of life’s worries take a back seat for a time and produce a new perspective on everything.