Circle of Light
by Radek Maslowiec
There is a theme in the cosmos. For all of its violent tendencies, an equilibrium does exist; one that allows life forms to evolve awareness. However, the building blocks of consciousness are no more aware of the why or the how than consciousness itself. Speculation arose from this uncertainty. All of the particles that continue to propagate the existence of the universe, including myself, were once part of a singularity; an inconceivable point of infinite density, by any standard. As sudden as the realization that something was happening, everything began to travel in time and all directions in space. I was witness to the inexplicable order that would rise from chaos.
The tumultuous death of a colossal star pales in comparison to the thermal plasma that preceded the existence of celestial bodies. It will exist as an echo of creation in the radio spectrum of electromagnetism. That heat can be attributed to the abundance of the hydrogen gas that allows stars to continue burning. Ages passed before everything around me began to cool as the space between particles grew further apart. Dark energies dispersed the matter before gravity made its debut and began to clump my nearest neighbours and I into an accretion disk of hydrogen. As I approached its centre, I was beginning to feel the pressures of gravity. Rubbing up against the matter in the storm, friction began emitting thermal energy. Given enough time, the pressure instigated a runaway fusion reaction giving birth to the proto stars of our infant universe. The reemergence of light would finally break up the darkness. As chaotic as the core of a star may seem, being immensely small gave me the liberty to roam about its interior for what felt like forever.
A collision was inevitable. Fusing with another hydrogen particles is its own category of ‘different’. As my star aged, fusion had almost synthesized its entire reservoir of hydrogen. Its core began to fill up with heavier elements. Forced to burn hotter to sustain fusion, the star came to grips with its own demise. The formation of its iron core marked the beginning of its end. The event that ensued was somewhat reminiscent of the moment of origin. Crushed under its own weight, the star bounced back from its core and erupted with a vicious explosion. Forces of nature work harmoniously to redistribute the old and the new into the cosmos.
Speeding through interstellar space was a welcome change of scenery as much occurred outside the boundaries of my star. A rich variety of elements came together to form immense clouds of organic matter. The very star that had exploded was but a tiny remnant of its former self. Spinning at astounding speeds, it pulsed as a beacon of light emitting beams of charged particles. Dust was a new sight; a prominent ingredient of the interstellar clouds. These nebulae were the byproducts of ancient stars processing elements, exploding, and in doing so, boiling the elements together into new shapes at temperatures a thousand fold hotter than their cores. Spending eons mingling amongst the clouds of debris, I came to learn of the complexity of our existence.
Celestial bodies without the materials needed to catalyze fusion coalesced into large spheres of matter. Some of those spheres were terrestrial-- with solid surfaces and strong magnetic fields. Forces of nature, however objective, created conditions that were suitable for particles to explore the infinite combinations that were available to them. Some particles took part in the formation of life and consciousness within it. All of this was overseen by a benevolent point of light in the dark. The presence of stars seem to be necessary for these processes to take place. More important was the role of gravity to act as a catalyst. It worked tirelessly to bring about generations of stars into existence.
It was time again to swirl about a dense mass in this cosmic cloud. It was not entirely like the first time I participated. Involuntarily, mind you. The eons that had passed brought about innumerable super novae explosions in our immediate corner of the neighbourhood. The resulting nebulae functioned as stellar nurseries for countless generations of stars.
I was in the midst of another cycle. It wasn’t a particularly large amount of gas and dust that was forming this new accretion disk. The ingredients, however, cooked up in the distant past and equally distant space, were much more abundant than in my first tour. Having taken the form of hydrogen allowed me to descend into the core of a modest giant. Being the lightest particle privileged me in having the path of least resistance through the storm. Meanwhile, heavier elements remained outside the boundaries of this infant sun to form rocky bodies. The sun had gobbled up almost the entirety of the material available before it ignited. The elements that missed the deadline were among the scraps left over after the nuclear shockwave cast them out beyond the orbits of the terrestrial planets. They were plenty enough to form enormous gas giants relative to the rocky bodies of the inner solar system.
Although I have learned of the existence of terrestrial intelligence, I assumed it was improbable for them to understand the cosmic timescales and processes that were responsible for their existence. Consciousness that emerged from the evolution of matter could not divide the sum of its parts to understand its history. However, to assume something was not possible would be to deny the existence of the universe. I long to witness such ingenuity.
This sun continued to synthesize a vast amount of matter into electromagnetic energies on an enormous, but consistent scale. I've swirled within the pressures of this modest sized sun for some time before I experienced fusion. This particular instance converted me into the byproduct of said fusion; a photon of light. I was sent on an unfamiliar journey through the crust of this sun. Eventually I emerged from its surface, after a duration comparable to the time it took to form the star, to speed through the vacuum of emptiness. In retrospect, the velocity at which this part of the journey took place was almost instantaneous. The experience thus far was quite spectacular, but could in no way prepare me for the intricacy that I was to witness.
The journey sent me careening towards an orbiting planet. The heaviest matter was at the core of this pale blue dot, while lighter gases lingered to form an atmosphere within a magnetic field. Magnetism and atmosphere were essential in filtering the spectrum of solar energy that was necessary, but harmful to the development of life if not regulated. It was a testament of the nurturing nature of the cosmos and the perseverance of life. Its temperature was unlike anything I had expected. Immensely cooler than what was necessary for fusion, but much warmer than the emptiness between the stars.
The instant I made contact with the surface of this planet, photosynthesis had changed me. Being converted from a solar ray into organic fuel was stranger still than the process of fusion. As I came to grips with what had happened and what I had become, I was ripped from the earth by a set of teeth and into the innards of yet another life form on this planet. Traveling much slower through space was in stark contrast to the rate of change occurring in short time. The experience is somewhat unsettling. I traversed a tunnel before reaching what I assumed to be the core of this creature. Acidic material flooded this place, breaking down what I had become into a new protein, one that was responsible for creating tissue, muscle fibers, and the complexity of this entity. I could only compare this to what the particles of the nebulae had experienced, but it wasn’t over. The oxygen that flowed through this animal came to a stop. Yet another resident of this planet would further my understanding of what was happening in this place.
Portions of this deceased plant eater would be removed evenly and with precision. Eventually making their way to a metal encased furnace. The smell of propane would fill the enclosure before the temperature began to rise. It ended up being consumed in a similar manner as the plant upon my arrival here. Sharp instruments of silver aided this creature in consuming morsels of the animal to begin a similar process of digestion. The acids converted me into a nutrient within the oxygen rich red liquid the creature depended on to survive. Wasn’t long before a rupture in its surface interrupted my circuit through its body. I was siphoned through a narrow tube into a creature much smaller that depended on this liquid for energy. This must have been irritable as its demise seemed to occur within the time it was trying to excavate its source of life. The upright animal had exerted enough force to squash this insect over the surface of its skin. It left me drying up before I was wiped off and tossed away into a metallic cylinder. This wasn’t an organic process but nevertheless I found it the most interesting. Although not an organism, this waste deposit seemed to be home to a variety of life much smaller than what this journey had shown me so far. A creeping entity would work its way through the organic matter contained therein. It grew exponentially before running out of material to consume. Within each individual of this bacterial colony were simple instructions written inside its very structure. Spelled out with the language of terrestrial life. An atom a letter. Even the atom consists of a complexity as intricate as my accumulated knowledge of existence. I experience a revelation; a universe dwells within the building blocks of consciousness.
"the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible"
- A. Einstein