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After careful consideration, I now see that I am not the center of the universe. Many of you have expressed concern for me in that regard for some time, even to the point of being led to prayer, or at least writing longish comments on my blog posts. Just know that I have in fact come around.

What brought me to this insight? Basically two things.

First is the sheer size of the universe we live in.

If I left right now, before my coffee to get a head start and beat the traffic, and traveling at the speed of light, which is 671 million mph, it would take me just over 5 hours to reach Pluto, which isn’t even a planet anymore.

Maintaining that speed, I wouldn’t reach the nearest star until this fall’s crop of high school freshman were finishing up their first semester of college (4.25 years). If I had nothing else going on and kept up that pace, I would reach the outer rim of our galaxy in about 25,000 years.

And, as we all know, the universe contains billions of galaxies, and its size is incalculable because it keeps expanding on us. The universe we can see would take about 28 billion years to cover at the above mentioned 671 million miles per hour.

To comprehend all this, we need to deal with distances, and sizes, and measurements of time that leave me feeling not at all vital—except perhaps to my dogs and cats who really want to be fed right now.

The infinitesimally small makes me stop and think as well.

Ive been reading about cells lately. They are very small, on average about 2/100 of a millimeter, but they contain on average 20,000 different types of proteins, and what happens inside these tiny little calls is complex, largely unknown, and yet is responsible for everything I am—every function, feeling, and thought.

And I never even thank them. I don’t think about them at all, really, because I can’t see them.

All of which is to say, when I place my sorry self on the grand scale of things, I can’t help but feel a bit de-centered.

Second is the fact that other people exist, too, and I feel I have no right to think of myself as any more central than anyone else.

I was at Shake Shack the other night (because I have the eating habits of 14-year-old) and noticed all the people on line waiting to order their food—maybe 20 or so, with another 30 eating away. All the humanity. And they all have stories to tell and sufferings to endure.

I’ll never know most people, even just those alive at the very moment. I can easily test that theory at the Shake Shack, walking through the local mall, picking up some milk at grocery store, or—well anything that involves people—“Don’t know you, or you, or you, or any of you.”

I was watching a documentary on World War 1 recently and thought “Even those little kids are dead. Every single person in these clips is dead. And I never knew any of them.” The same holds for people who have lived hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands of years ago, with their stories, their hopes and fears. They count, too.

Anyway, nothing really new in all of this. I think we all get it. As for me, I’m just going to try and keep my non-central role in the universe in mind a bit more today—after I feed my dogs and cats.

[Thanks for your patience as your comments await moderation—think of it as your chance to practice the non-centrality of your existence. Also, I wrote a similar post a couple of days ago that might interest you. Apparently my inner German is on a roll.]


Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.