We waited until our baby girl completed 3 months of age, then we packed and traveled south to Eilat, our favorite place in Israel. Nothing compares to spending time with my gang; my girlfriend, our son and daughter, and myself. We stayed right on the beach, in a caravan near the border with Egypt, on the shores of the Red Sea. Every few days, we drove to the city for supplies, but all in all, we forgot about the world. We concentrated on the nature and ourselves. Inside the intimate happy bubble we lived in, there was no time. Maybe it stopped, or perhaps we had so much of it in our bubble, that the passing of time did not matter. The modern world teaches us that as time goes by, we need to make a progress, in order to improve our relative position in this universe. While bubbles are considered temporary illusions, which prevent progress, inside the bubble, we might feel that we are exactly in our optimal position.
The extended time that we spent on that beach was a fertile ground for wondering.
One dark night, I laid on my back and I was overwhelmed by the incredible amount and the high density of the stars in the sky. I was wondering how God manages to control this inconceivably huge territory, and my absurd intent to get a feel for the size of the universe, reminded me the frustration I experienced when I read “A brief history of time” by Stephen Hawking, a book which I purchased in a thrift shop in Hawaii in 1999, for $1.
I had to turn to the field of numbers, where I felt much more comfortable, thanks to my financial background. Imagining 100 billion dots, that represent the approximate number of planets on the milky way galaxy, was something that I could relate to.
In the following morning, the kids and I played with the pebbles, those little colorful stones, which cover the beach. I asked my son: “How many pebbles you think there are in this beach?” “A thousand” he immediately replied. Then after a minute he corrected himself: “More than a thousand…infinite!”.
I asked myself the same question, and it reminded me a bible lesson in the elementary school almost 40 years ago, when we learned that God, a few thousands years ago, promised Abraham as many offsprings as the sand grains on the beach, and as the stars in the sky. I read somewhere that the entire Jewish people all over the world is estimated at approximately 15 million, and I thought that it is much less than the sand grains or stars. Did God exaggerate? While playing with pebbles in my hands, I thought about the essence of both planets and pebbles. I drew in my mind comparison tables between them; their number, size, characteristics etc. Then I watched a big group of divers going out of the water, with their heavy scuba gear and black diving suits. They all looked alike from a distance, much like the pebbles and stars, and so I added people to my internal debate. While recognizing the inherent differences between planets, pebbles and people, comparing them was entertaining and it ignited more essential cosmic thoughts. I’ve heard this phrase many times: “Each person is an entire universe”. But in relation to the universe, we are more like the pebbles; tiny and insignificant. I thought I arrived to that beach because I chose to, unlike my fellow pebbles which were doomed to be there.
When I tried to find similarities between planets, pebbles and people, the first thing that came to my mind was the round shape of planets, pebbles and our heads. The second, was the counting issue. While we don’t know how many planets and pebbles there are in the universe, the human population on planet earth is estimated at around 7 Billion today. I tried to imagine how would they all look like put together. It was too difficult, so I tried to imagine 7 billion pebbles in the sky and it much easier task. The main conclusion, however, from my imaginary quantitative game wasn’t new to me: Perceiving the size of the entire system was way too much for me. But it didn’t stop me from wondering and imagining, and it brought up memories from “The Little Prince” of Antoine de Saint-Exupery and his little imaginary planets.
Late in that afternoon, the water of the red sea turned quiet and completely flat, and along with the misty sky, I felt that magic in the air, the same one I was never able to explain by words.
Just before sunset, a full moon showed up early, peeking above the “Edom” mountains. Their brown-reddish color was blared by the haze, as if they were painted with soft pastels, by an old artist who had seen it all.
The silence and that pure vision of simplicity filled me with gratitude, and my mind was finally relaxed after all these complex cosmic thoughts.
The night came, the moon climbed higher and my thoughts flew to another distant universe.