My Life Is Eternal In the Universe

A reverie from the edges of sleep led me to wonder about space euphoria.

I saw my life playing out within the vast universe–held within its expanse of stars and nebulae, distant quasars and galaxies, and the ever-changing complexity of life on this planet over billions of years. One life in an uncountable multitude, yet still leaving its mark forever among the atoms, among the chemical molecules, among the other life forms and people and our shared human culture. That no matter how small, the life and existence of a thing leaves a trace, its influence radiating out forever. It’s like the way we see stars still shining in our skies that have long since burned out, or gone supernova to lend their atoms to the creation of new stars and planets, maybe still yet to come. Or like a trilobite long dead in an ancient sea lends its footprint to the tree of life, one of many trilobites all making en masse their distinct contribution to the genetic codes that go on spinning out new life forms in a great and dynamic continuity. Dead or extinct, we remain forever present as building blocks, as echos, our lives perpetually acquiring new meaning as the context changes in its never-ending and shifting complexity.

This is eternal life! I thought. It doesn’t matter whether or not my soul is eternal, whether or not there is life after death, or we are simply extinguished, only living on in peoples’ memories… Because actually, my life is eternal in the universe! It had the quality of a revealed truth. It made me want to create something beautiful to give back to the universe, my song for eternity.

I was not high. A little sleepy, lying in bed before falling asleep. But perhaps listening to the third book of The Expanse, a science fiction book set in space, had percolated into my brain enough to answer an age old debate in a new way.

Space Euphoria

It turns out that the sense of absolute interconnection of every atom and star and life form on Earth, along with a number of other holistic non-linear experiences is common for astronauts. They call it space euphoria and the overveiw effect

It’s fun to read the descriptions, and makes me think I’ve had it backwards about space all this time. I’ve thought vacuum a horrible, hard, terrifying place to be. But maybe it’s also a place of unity, wonder, and splendor:

One of my favorites is a passage quoted in the Gizmodo article from Astronaut Chris Hadfield describing his first space walk:

“I check behind me, to be sure I haven’t accidentally activated my backup tank of oxygen, and that’s when I notice the universe. The scale is graphically shocking… Intellectually, I’d known I was venturing out into space, yet still the sight of it shocked me, profoundly… you look up from your task and the universe rudely slaps you in the face.” (Hadfield, C. in Giaimo, C.)

Astronaut Edgar Mitchell was so changed by his Apollo 14 moon mission that he founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences, and dedicated his life to further human understanding of our unity with all things and our consciousness potential.

Mitchell describes seeing the earth and the 360 degree panorama of stars as their capsule tumbled back to Earth, which triggered an experience of samadhi. He describes it like this:  “It means that you see things with your senses, the way they are. But you experience them viscerally in eternity as a unity and a oneness accompanied by ecstasy.”

*Wow. So it appears I misheard what he was saying. He said, “But you experience them viscerally and internally as a unity and a oneness accompanied by ecstasy.”

It makes me wonder what will happen when we truly take to space–if all our fearful projections about taking our violence with us to the stars will collapse under the experience of the universe’s grandeur outside of an atmosphere, gravity, and magnetic field.


References

Giaimo, C. (2015, June 13). 50 Years Ago The First American Walked In Space, And Didn’t Want To Stop. Gizmodo. https://io9.gizmodo.com/50-years-ago-the-first-american-walked-in-space-and-di-1708781846

Hadfield, C. (2013). An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. Little, Brown, and Co.

Institute of Noetic Sciences. (2021, January 30). About Our Origins: A Shift in Perspective. IONS online. https://noetic.org/about/origins/

Institute of Noetic Sciences. (2016, February 6). “We Are One” – Edgar MItchell 1930-2016. [Video]. Vimeo. https://vimeo.com/154398850

O’Neill, I. (2008, May 22). The Human Brain in Space: Euphoria and the “Overview Effect” Experienced by Astronauts. Universe Today: Space and Astronomy News. https://www.universetoday.com/14455/the-human-brain-in-space-euphoria-and-the-overview-effect-experienced-by-astronauts/

Overview effect. (2021, January 23). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Overview_effect&oldid=1002199276

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