Do you remember a while back when an immense burst of radiation slammed into the Earth? I can’t forget about it. It’s astounding to think that a shockwave of pure energy — enough to power every electric toothbrush, every smart phone, every presidential campaign and every civilization for billions of years — exploded into the atmosphere just a few miles above us while we slept, blissfully unaware.
It’s the sort of stuff movies are made of. And rightfully so. Imagine, for a moment, that you’re hanging out on this planet of ours, trying to figure out what you’re going to have for a late night snack, when a sudden, tremendous blast from outer space vaporizes your favorite watering hole. Within mere ticks of the cosmic clock you’re gasping for air and wondering how come your friends don’t stop by anymore. If you happen to be a dinosaur, then the above account could be feasible, and you might be headed the way of 8-track tape players, video stores and bipartisanship.
But thankfully, our pal the ozone layer decided to stay awake that night a few years ago. Perhaps it was chewing a TUMS to alleviate some greenhouse gas. It swallowed the massive starburst and shared some with its friend, the upper atmosphere. Together they ionized the gamma and X-rays and convinced the invading energy that it wouldn’t be such a good idea to strike our friendly planet without so much as an invitation. The resulting radiation, thankfully, was only powerful enough to expose a little bit of dental film if an insomniac periodontist were skulking about the Pacific Ocean looking for a late-night show on Hula.
The celestial close encounter left me with a sense of kid-like wonder at the universe. So often in our mundane existences we reach into the cabinet to spice up the warm stew in which we live. A cosmic collision with a force greater than our understanding is a staggering and inspiring event. How many times do we think to ourselves that there must be something more to life than our everyday reality? And then along comes a greeting from the heavens that confirms and reminds us that not only is there something more, but like an old college buddy, it’ll show up un-announced and crash on your ozone layer.
The mystery of the universe so often gets ignored in our daily lives of commuting, working, and raising the kids. Thankfully, from time to time, it inappropriately barges into our lives and, like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, refuses to be ignored.