"Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on."
Jimmy Page & Robert Plant
Friends and Kitties!
I work in the water treatment industry here in Las Vegas, splitting my time between two facilities. The work is basically the same at both places with a few minor details excepted; the real difference for me is the drive to work in the morning. The Henderson facility is in town about ten minutes away, no great shakes. Just a bit of town driving; stop lights, a little traffic, school buses. The other plant--out at Lake Mead--is a whole 'nother story, located smack dab in the center of a National Park. On the drive to the second plant is a long stretch that faces East, spooling downhill towards the lake. My favorite part of the fifteen minute trip is when I crest the hill, turn the corner, and behold the sun, rising from behind Fortification Mountain. It's dazzling. And it makes me wonder.
I don't know how many (or how often) people stop and think about the fact that our Sun is a star, just like those little lights twinkling in the night sky. I actually think about this a lot, and often; in fact a lot of my Life Philosophy revolves around our star, the one we call "The Sun". Who knows what other life calls it--in the Universe it's a picayune little thing, really. But for me, for us, for the Earth, it's everything.
Take, for example, matter. The dirt, the rocks and trees, the animals and atmosphere. All of that came from a star's death throes, collapsing cataclysmically to form the heavier and larger elements that compose me, you, and everything else. Everything we are and see, no matter how it has been transmogrified (with the exception, perhaps, of fleetingly short-lived man-made elements) is dead star detritus. Everything. I think that is absolutely awesome, that something so mighty has become me. And it comforts me, to know that one day, billions of years from now, my atoms may be reused into something as grand once again, albeit they will go through many transformations and recyclings before that time. For me, that's the best life after death I can envision. Maybe I won't know then, but I know now, and that's enough for me.
But back to our Sun.
My field of study in college was Biochemistry, which deals with how things live, on a molecular level. It's a fabulous subject, and one of the core concepts is energy transfer from one form to another, enabling a thing to sustain life, the source of energy being our Sun.* A single photon, after spending a million years traveling up and out from the core of the Sun hurtles through space and nine minutes later strikes a cell on a leaf, providing the needed energy packet for the plant to take carbon dioxide from the air and water from the ground to form a molecule of sugar--photosynthesis. The scale of this boggles my mind. All the oil reserves, all the coal, all the greenery, every living thing, is sunlight, condensed. Everything we eat, use, or otherwise consume is derived from a star and powered by the sun. We are the miraculous product of thermonuclear energy and explosions.
Our Sun affects us in other, more subtle ways. We need the sun's ultra-violet energy to synthesize Vitamin D from the cholesterol in our bodies. Our circadian rhythm is dictated by exposure to sunlight, as well as brain hormone production that determine our moods. In fact, the DNA sequence that enables plants turn toward the light for maximum light exposure is the same one in us humans (and other species, surely) that determines, among other things, jet lag. No wonder it feels so good to have the Sun on your face, it's programmed into our base sequencing. But I simply enjoy the warmth, and the long view to the East driving into work, watching the sun rise over the mountains.
The ancients worshiped the Sun as the giver of all life. They weren't far wrong.
And dudes, it's a STAR! Nine light-minutes away.
How cool is that?
Now, have a Happy Sunday, a Good Week, and be a Ray of Sunshine. Because we are!
XX Sheebie XX
*Yes, there are other sorts--at volcanic vents, ect...work with me here!