Each of us owe our existence to 14 billion years of an unfolding universe. Humans are just a blip on the Universal time-line. Our solar system wasn't even around for the first 10 billion years of the Universe. During this time, galaxies formed and many stars were born and died. Our sun eventually came to be in the Milky Way spiral galaxy that contains over 200 billion stars that rotate about a galactic center. The Milky Way is part of the Local Group which consists of 30 galaxies spanning a diameter of 10 million light years. Modern technology has allowed us to observe over 50 billion galaxies in the Universe with each galaxy containing an estimated 100 billion stars. It is impossible for our brains to grasp such enormity but simply take a moment to breath this into your being and realize just how minuscule Earth is when compared to the utter vastness of the Universe.
Our solar system was born from a rotating cloud of interstellar dust and gas, the remnants of a dying star that exploded its matter about the Universe. The Earth remained a stewing, gaseous globe for 1.3 billion years before the Earth's crust hardened. The dance of evolution would need another 1.6 billions to manifest cells with nuclei, the building blocks for complex life. The emergence of plants about 425 million years ago drastically changed the atmosphere as they feasted on CO2 which eventually paved the way for dinasours who roamed the Earth for 185 million years before suddenly disappearing along with 70% of all life forms 65 million years ago. It would be another 61.5 million years before our early ancestors first appeared in Africa. Homo Sapiens, a bipedal primate closely related to chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and gibbons, arrived on the scene a mere 200,000 years ago and we would need another 189,000 years before they began to develop agriculture and domesticate animals.
We share this history with all life on Earth which includes an estimated 62,000 species of vertebrates; 1.3 million species of invertebrates; 320,000 species of plants; and 51,000 other species that include mushroom and lichens. The history of the Universe is by far the greatest story ever told. Earth and all its life forms were literally created from stardust. We are born out of this mysterious and complex interdependent web of life that began so long ago. If we could trace our family tree back some 200,000 years, we would discover that all 7 billion people presently on Earth would converge to a common ancestor after 8,000 generations. As we move much farther back in time, we would discover that we are all literally part of a great Tree of Life where we are kin to all life on Earth.
The greatest story ever told reminds us that we must remember where we came from as we move forward. This history lives within each of us and is our true place in the cosmos. We are not separate from the trees, the rivers, the insects, the mushrooms, or the mountains. We are literally one in this amazing dance of life. Each specie fulfills an unique ecological niche. Humans were graced with self-awareness that allows us to celebrate and honor life. Indigenous cultures knew this but the modern human has been blinded by self-absorption, arrogance, and greed.
The time has come to embrace the Great Story and share it with our children and grandchildren. Although we know much about our past, the future will always remain unknown and dependent on how we choose to live today. When we recognize the interdependent and oneness that life is, we naturally embody love, humility, and gratitude. It is when we remember our unique place in the Universe that we can awaken to what it truly means to be human. May we all find the courage, determination, and wisdom to do so.