The steam rises. Swirling, coiling ‘round itself in an excitement paralleled only by the flames that heat it. It bursts forth from its liquid brother, yearning to explore and unite itself with the surrounding world, transferring both aroma and the liquid itself to places it could never have otherwise reached. Formless, clear, yet perceived… and slowly it fades into nothing.
A baby is born. Sensations overwhelm its small mind and as the neurons begin to fire the child takes its first breaths and enters into a brand new world of possibility. He is shaped and molded by his surroundings, by those he encounters, and the lessons he learns from them. Slowly his horizons are broadened, and what started as a simple yearning for food, turns into a desire for friends, experience, and… sooner or later, self-expression. He sees the world around, and has it all in the palm of his hand. A droplet of water so crystal clear, so conquerable – until it slides off, and suddenly, he goes with it. He falls with that drop through the cold, fresh air and splashes on the rock hard stones below. Everything is difficult, unclear. He is 18 years old.
The pattern continues as life throws its curveballs and the winds of reality slap our face again and again. We feel joy, and are thrown down. We have goals, but endure long arduous treks to achieve them. Marriage is beautiful, children, family, and the legacy that we leave that gives us a purpose. Yet, soon… we fade. That energy, our excited molecules fade into the great expanse of the universe, leaving only the scent of our existence, a memory of what we once were.
Movement begins with bursting strength, but friction wears it down and horizons always narrow. The world of future possibilities turns to the dream of the past, best appreciated with the gift of aftersight. Life is a breath on a cold day. A condensation of energy that steams forth, but fades. ”הבל הבלים, הכל הבל”. (Ecclesiastes 1:2)
Does steam have meaning? Can this life, a bygone breath, have any significance in an eternal universe of vast emptiness? And if that energy, that internal meaning and flame we have as youngsters drives us forwards and creates meaning…can that be truly called meaningful? Is it not more than the selfish desire of the human to pretend their existence is more than the drop of ink on a canvas of unfathomable size?
But energy does not vanish. Its form will only change. On the universal scale, humanity is negligible. But our existence may be eternal. The rainstorm will blow, and the drop will be pushed along. But the drop will evaporate. Will expand. Empty space is humbling, yet it also allows room to swell. We live life with energy, with strength that flows and ebbs. With darkness and light, exile and redemption. But we push forwards. In the larger scheme, nothing matters. Not pain, not joy. Everything is encompassed in a black velvety timelessness that is larger than anything and all that it encompasses. But perhaps that is a strength. That is our strength. To be without meaningful consequence yet with unlimited potential. We expand with energy, we expire, but we become a part of the expanse, a part of that unlimited nature, and slowly, bit by bit, we start to affect it. Our fire, our internal drive as humanity to expand our horizons, lets us cross oceans, fly through the sky, and land on the moon. And in the timelessness of existence, we’re just getting started.
To expand, to grow, to leave a mark in the heart’s of one’s family, friends, nation, and human-kind as a whole, to make a difference in the annals of history and amongst the many stars and galaxies – such is the natural state of the human being. And it is that desire, that small steam rising from the coffee cup, tumbling and turning, ever rising and expanding, that makes mankind significant. And it is that desire that “space”, creates space for. The universe dwarves us. But that self-same universe also allows for unbounded expansion, expansion that, as a species, may be eternal as well.
Perhaps, therefore, the proper view is not how can any individual life be significant, but rather how can we be significant. How can the human race develop, how can our united potential scrape the heavens and conquer the Earth. How can humanity soar through the dimensions of spacetime, space and time, and how can we dance with infinity.
Yet perhaps, perhaps what we will find is that our desire, our potential, our breadth of soul, is not satisfied with the confines of the physical. Perhaps we will realize that when we are capable of brushing infinity, that call for infinite, is truly a call from The Infinite. A spark, a desire, buried deep within that has always been there, and that has guided us since the beginning of time to connect with that which is larger than ourselves. Perhaps we will heed that call, and realize that, all along, connection to Infinity has always been possible. And perhaps, therefore, our individual lives aren’t so meaningless after all.