Dr. Science

blackholeI’m reading the science news today. I don’t read the science news because I want to gain knowledge or so that you think I am sophisticated and deeply intellectual. I read the science news to make me feel better about my dwindling anxiety-ridden existence.

It’s been a long week. As any teacher will tell you, the first few weeks of school are sort of like being thrown out of an airplane with a parachute tied to your ankle. You have to scramble around in a panic to get control as you plummet towards the earth with bugs in your teeth. On top of teaching there is also research to do, papers to write for professors, presentations to create, blogs to write, and books to edit.

I know that my life is no busier than yours, so you know what I mean. We all have pressures and deadlines, whether it’s a meeting, a class, an article, or whatever should be involved in your tailor-made brand of commitment and worry. It gets tiring and overwhelming. Classes can draw on a teacher’s energy like nothing else. By Thursday afternoon I am a vegetable. I sit in my office and do paperwork.

When the moments of life start overwhelming us, we react in different ways. We pray, we drink, we eat, we hide. Or, if it’s a particularly bad week, we do all of the above and usually regret it the next day.

I do all of those things. Nothing like a good comfort hotdog to get me through a tough afternoon. And I think enough of these blog posts take place in pubs for you all to get how much I love a good beer and a Becherovka. And though I do not pray to any concrete God, I do pray throughout the day in muttered vulgarity-strewn oaths.

But when it all comes down on me too hard, I go to the science news.

The science news is the most beneficial pill for a dude in the throes of time of anxiety and stress. Without fail, the science news features something fascinating, something terrifying, and something mind-bogglingly and universally enormous all in the same article.

Today, I have all of that pill. On top of these worries, I am also wrapped in the warm embrace of bitter aggravation and tooth-grinding frustration that can only come from the joys of working with young people. So I look around CNN.com until I am gifted an article entitled: For the First Time Ever, NASA Just Saw Something Come out of a Black Hole.

Fascinating ✔

Terrifying ✔

Mind-Bogglingly and Universally Enormous ✔

Scientific discoveries have a way of making me feel selfish and tiny at the same time. This is particularly true of space discoveries. So while I’m busy worrying about my piddly problems and meager existence, scientists are making observations about the universe. It’s the adjectives and numbers in a science article that somehow comfort me.

In today’s article, NASA saw something come out of a ‘supermassive’ black hole. Supermassive. Now, I’m not sure how big a black hole (or any extraterrestrial phenomenon, really) has to be in order to be labelled ‘supermassive,’  but I’m pretty sure it’s bigger than my little world. It’s bigger than my bedroom, my flat, all of my students put together, and my synopsis on accent perception in Second Language Acquisition. If you lined up all of my stresses and anxieties in one long line, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t reach across the mouth of a supermassive black hole.

I feel better already. I read on.

My eye catches a number. And not just a number, but an inconceivable, incomprehensible, a too-boggling-for-my-mind number: the black hole is 324 million light years away. That’s pretty far away. Suddenly, my 45 minute commute doesn’t seem so strenuous.

With this perspective, I lie on the couch and think about the real scope of my worries. Things don’t seem so big now. I think about it all: students, research, rent, something that can be called ‘supermassive,’ the fact that there are things that are 324 million light years away.

And then I go to the pub.

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