Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Bigness and Smallness of Things

Two children,  daughter-in-law, and four grandchildren (ages 5, 4, 3 and 2) visited us recently. Maneuvering the little ones' bodies up and down steep flights of steps, through (and under) subway turnstiles, and among skyscrapers which made them look like fleas, started me thinking about size and perception. What must it feel like to walk around Manhattan and see no higher than the next person's knees?

I wasn't aware of being in a contemplative mood as we entered the American Museum of Natural History last Sunday; the day was all about  fun! Up to the fourth floor dinosaurs, down to the basement food court, up to the African Mammals, pit stop at the bathrooms. However, as I sat with 2-year-old Anna asleep in my lap in the darkened Hayden Planetarium, stillness triggered thoughtfulness.

The immense dome transformed into a world beyond ourselves, and we were traveling through space in "Journey to the Stars."(video). We whizzed out of our galaxy into unknown territory, with music and vibration propelling us onward.
"Who are we in the bigness of time?"  I pondered.  
But it was four-year-old Nate's question which erased any preconceived notion that size has anything to do with insight.
"Is that God?" he whispered, as the light of thousands of stars reflected in his eyes.

Exiting the planetarium, Luke's question sent us in search of the truly important, the "tyrant lizard" that every soon-to-be-kindergartner has known since toddlerhood.
"Where is T-Rex?" he said.

I knew that Rex would be fiercely gigantic, that his skull alone could measure five feet long, and serrated teeth up to 12 inches.  Here's an animal who became extinct 65 million years ago, who's nothing but bones, but in whose presence I took a deep breath and a few steps backwards.  It wasn't until I knelt down beside granddaughter Ruby and looked at T-Rex from her perspective, though, that I felt the full magnitude of the discrepancy, the power of intimidating size.

                                                Ruby (in foreground) with T-Rex

There was one animal, larger by far than T-Rex, that I wanted to see before we left. . . the Blue Whale. At around 100 feet long, it is the largest known animal ever to have lived on earth, and thankfully, continues to live, although endangered.  As I entered the Hall of Ocean Life, the model seemed to smile as she hung suspended from the ceiling.

I immediately felt her peacefulness, her gentleness, rather than her size.

She invited me to come closer, so I descended the steps and sat on the floor beneath her.  

As I looked up at the contours of her smooth, lined skin, I felt joyful, marveled at her greatness.

Greatness, significance,
which had
to do with





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