Vast and awesome

Schoolchildren at Kew Gardens, looking even smaller from the Treetop Walkway, July 2017

“Once we lose our fear of being tiny, we find ourselves on the threshold of a vast and awesome Universe…”Carl Sagan

It’s easy to forget how tiny we are in the great scheme of things, until something reminds us. Often, these reminders– disaster, illness, aging, death, or simply being treated rudely or with disrespect– are not pleasant. Maybe what Sagan calls our “fear of being tiny” is mostly our longing for significance; the reasonable desire to achieve something lasting.

But when we turn our eyes outward, away from ourselves, the view really is incredible. Whether one is fascinated by astronomy, botany, people, animals, ideas, or imaginary tales– or all of the above and more– the scope of wonder is astoundingly broad. I find it to be a reliable defense against loneliness and despair.

Next time you are feeling blue, worried or forgotten, try stopping in your tracks and thinking of something totally unrelated to whatever is bothering you. Pull out a reference book you haven’t looked at in awhile, and flip through the pages until something catches your eye. Take a walk outside and look up at the sky, or open an old photo album and focus on the faces of friends and loved ones you haven’t seen lately. Spend an hour or two just being nosy curious at a local library, shopping mall or museum.

None of this is likely to solve our problems, of course. But they will almost certainly appear smaller to us after we’ve broken free of their grasp long enough to get some perspective. What vast and awesome things can you see from your threshold today?


  1. Good morning, Julia!
    For ten months, I’ve lived “across the street” from the New England Sports Center.
    Last week, I decided to see if the have any public skating hours. They do.
    Tuesday, I went to skate at lunch time and NO ONE ELSE WAS SKATING!
    I basically got an hour of private “rink time” for $5!
    I’m loading more music on my phone, and planning to go skating again today!
    Living the dream! 😀

    • Wow, that sounds wonderful! Adding the music would be the perfect touch. You may have discovered a very well-kept secret. Hope you have many more private or semi-private rink sessions!

  2. Carolyn

    You said open an old photo album, the other day, I did. Oh my, what joy I had seeing faces I hadn’t seem in awhile. You all were in the one I picked. The boys were young, I think most of the ones were from Hawaii. Then there were ones of my children and boy have they changed, now they are parents. Sure did enjoy going down memory lane. I enjoyed reading your blog today. Hugs and love to all.

    • Carolyn, isn’t it fun to spend some time with old photos? We forget how quickly everyone grew up while we sat here not aging at all, hee-hee. I’m so happy you liked the blog post. Sending our love and wishes for a wonderful weekend!

  3. Harry Sims

    “But when we turn our eyes outward, AWAY FROM OURSELVES, the view really is incredible.”.

    The Golden Key

    Click to access golden_key.pdf


    • Thanks Harry – I enjoyed this. I do think re-focusing on goodness is definitely the secret to surviving our troubles. (Philippians 4:8 tells us the same thing in different words, and it has always been one of my very favorite verses.)

  4. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. ☕️ I’m sure you have the visual for my morning, simple as it is. My ocean view is my “problem eraser” more than I can even acknowledge. There is a subtle presence that is constant and soothing in the salt air and the sound of waves breaking. My little cottage, 428, is tiny in stature but bursting at the seams with memories! 🏡 I hope you and Matt will have a good weekend, enjoy each other, and even be a little nosy (oops, curious) somewhere! 👋🏻 Hi to Matt. 💛

    • Sheila, I think the ocean is definitely a problem eraser– or as I wrote in this post, a “giant reset button!” How wonderful to be able to see it every day. I’m sure it more than makes up for all the hassles of hurricanes and other less-than-ideal aspects of coastal life. Hope you have a wonderful weekend! ❤

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