Noticing the Extraordinary Universe
By Karen Ballum on April 11, 2012
There are times when we take a step back from our lives and really look around us. When we do, we notice things -- really notice things -- and that changes how we see everything. Noticing those things can change our world. In John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, Hazel's father shares his observations about the universe and life.
"I remember in college I was taking this math class, this really great math class taught by this tiny old woman. She was talking about fast Fourier transforms and she stopped midsentence and said, 'Sometimes it seems the universe wants to be noticed.'
"That's what I believe. I believe the universe wants to be noticed. I think the universe is improbably biased toward consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because it the universe enjoys its elegance being observed." p. 223
I know it's kind of a heavy quote but I love it. After I read that passage in the book I stopped and thought about it for a long time. What is the universe? According my Concise Oxford Dictionary, the universe is:
- all existing things: the whole creation (and the Creator); all mankind -
An interesting definition but I knew it wasn't the whole definition. I knew the universe was also the actual physical and observable universe, which yes would fall under "all existing things." I wanted more so I turned to the internet. I eventually ended up on John Green's vlogbrothers YouTube channel. His brother Hank did a video about the size of the universe. Did you know the universe has no edge?
I can't say that I understand absolutely everything in Hank's video or that it I've completely absorbed exactly how the universe has no edge. (I do like John's son's theory that a honey badger ate the edge.) I did understand this much though -- each and every one of us is at the center of the observable universe. The universe really does want us to notice it.
At an earlier point in the book, Augustus tells Hazel, "Everyone wants to lead an extraordinary life." Hazel disagrees but I think Augustus was on to something. The universe wants us to notice it but I also believe we want the universe to notice us. Each us who has ever publicly shared our writing, stories and photos has hoped for someone to comment. We hope for maybe not an entirely extraordinary life, but for those extraordinary moments that make life wonderful.
But Augustus also got it wrong. His statement assumes that some of us don't live extraordinary lives and we do. I do. You do. Augustus, Hazel and Isaac had extraordinary lives, though not because they had cancer. Every single one of us lives an extraordinary life because life itself is extraordinary. We are the center of the universe. The universe notices us and we notice the universe.
What makes your life extraordinary?
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