My four-year-old (affectionately nicknamed “Little”) has been learning about our solar system at her school. She keeps reciting that “the earth goes around the sun and that the moon spins around the earth and that’s why we have night and day!” Quite adorable. So, in an attempt to foster her newfound enthusiasm for the universe, Hubby decided to organise a trip to the Wits Planetarium. He’s got a new policy that started a few weeks ago, to do one proper outing with Little every weekend. So far it has resulted in Disney on Ice, Despicable Me 3 and last week, the planetarium.
Off we went, Hubby, me, Little and Ouma. I had last been to the Wits Planetarium as a student. It still looked pretty much the same as 15 years ago. Impressively, they have different shows for kids 5-8 years, 8-12 years and for adults. We grabbed our seats which all have little headrests so that we could look up, supported, at the large dome above us and the antique projector started the show.
We gazed at the stars and a couple of the constellations (which I can never really see, even in the 5 – 8-year-old show) and then moved on to explore the planets. We learned about Mercury’s craters and eyepopping temperatures, beautiful serene-looking Venus which is actually a hellish deathscape of gas that would kill you in moments if you ever set foot on it, and then Earth. And while listening to the narrator rave about how lucky we are to live on our beautiful planet, a melancholic feeling started welling up in me about how pitifully small and insignificant we earthlings are in the vast universe.
Our imaginary space craft continued to Mars which is full of old volcanos and is red because of its iron ore soil. Then to the giant planet, Jupiter which has a famous red spot and the mass of 318 Earths, and then Saturn with its characteristic rings which has the mass of 95 Earths. And by the time we’re on our way to Uranus and Neptune I felt even smaller (like a speck of dust in the Grand Canyon). I wondered why I worry about silly things that really don’t matter in the great-great-GREATER scheme of things. Making any significant impact felt hopeless, why bother?
The show finished and we walked to the car. And while driving off I wondered if most of the show and its immense realities went over Little’s head. Then she said: “Mommy I think Mars looked like a great planet. I like that its red. Will we be able to visit it some time?” I held my breath for a second. “Yes my love, you will probably be visiting Mars in your lifetime,” I said.
And I realised that even though we will likely have to flee Earth one day because we are recklessly messing up our own planet, it is pretty amazing that we will be able to achieve life on Mars. We’ve achieved many, many amazing things. And we are probably not as insignificant as I thought.
I’m going to try and contribute towards doing amazing things and not be insignificant from now on. Even though I won’t make much of an impact on the universe, who knows what can be achieved if I put my mind to it.