Heike’s latest obsession is The Solar System. She borrowed a book about planets from her Mandarin teacher which peaked her interest, but sadly it was written entirely in Chinese and my own knowledge of space is very pathetic. All I could tell her was which planet was which, based on my memory of the childhood rhyme “My Very Early Mother Just Sat Up Near Pluto” and even then I struggled to remember if Mercury or Mars was the “Mother”.
So off we went to the bookshop and bought a book about the solar system, which is extremely interesting (okay, I know, I should know all this stuff!) and gets read every night. Today at school was library day and she borrowed yet another space book, so now my knowledge is back up to primary school level.
There are two things that strike me whenever I think about space, so much so that I often don’t really want to think about it. The first thing is, how strangely perfect and magical it all is. I mean, those big, perfectly spherical balls rotating around a beautiful gaseous sun? And like, the only reason there is even life on earth is that it is the perfect distance from the sun for that to happen. It’s just TOO perfect and it makes me get very philosophical and religious and then google “Big Bang Theory” and then my brain starts to hurt and I google “When does Keeping Up With The Kardashians start again?”
The second thing that strikes me is how completely insignificant we are. How utterly, utterly inconsequential. I mean, there are 7 billion people on earth alone. And earth is one of eight planets in its solar system. And sure, there may not be life on those other planets (that we know of) but they dwarf us. There is a hurricane on Jupiter that has been blowing for 400 years! Just doing its thing! And you know when you look up into the sky at night and you think you see pretty, twinkling stars? They are actually other solar systems, that probably have their own suns, and their own planets that are just the right distance from their suns to harbour 7 billion of their own alien people.
What is it all for?!
And so, I think, what does any of it matter? Just live your own happy existence, because you only get one chance… And then I see an image of a three year old child washed up on a beach. And suddenly things seem significant again.
It is completely embarrassing to admit that I only knew snippets of information about the Syrian conflict before last week, but I’ve never professed to be an expert on current affairs. Yes, I am a bleeding heart liberal but I’ve always admitted to thinking more about what I’m going to wear the next day and who’s going to get eliminated on The Bachelor than the global refugee crisis. But that image struck a chord with me, and yes that makes me a cliche, but the best kind. Because now, I can’t not think about it and I can’t not act. And hopefully there are hundreds of thousands of other cliches out there who will start donating money and sponsoring children and having important conversations.
So yes, we’ve made a big fat mess of things here on planet earth. And I still do stand by my sentiment that you have to look out for you and yours, to eat that cake, buy that dress, breathe deep and think about all the other solar systems. But maybe if all the everyday Mums like me speak about the situation in Syria and make one small move to help, we can clean our act up.