Living Life in a Cosmic Opera. For those of you who are too tired to… | by Vaishnavi Singh | The Mavericks | Jul, 2022

For those of you who are too tired to read these 700-odd-words by a 25-something girl, go grab some chai and enjoy the melody below (sorry folks, it’s not an aria, don’t be misled by the title), because we all deserve a relaxing evening 🙂

Khoya Khoya Chand Khula Aasman by Mohammed Rafi

July 12, 2022, will go down in history. A spattering of dazzlingly colourful orbs, levitating against a velveteen landscape encapsulated in a 1:1 met my eyes, along with countless others, uniting us in collective awe (or so I would like to believe), as we witnessed the space’s history from a billion years ago.

US President Joe Biden shared a glimpse of the James Webb Space Telescope’s first image. | Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

Earlier this week, NASA unveiled the first images from the James Webb telescope — an operatic performance of stars being born anew and dying away, galaxies whirling around, black holes yawning awake, and space dust dancing away — a million marvels of the universe, billions of light-years away.

If you’re a person who has ever gazed up at the night sky to contemplate the significance of life, then these set of images must have made you stop and ponder, or rather, reminded you of the ingenuity of the human race and its insatiable lust for knowledge (if we are being grand). But it’s also a reminder of the vastness of this universe and how we as a species occupy a rice grain’s worth of space in this cosmic opera. Now let me stop you right there — if you think I mean that that makes us little or insignificant, then I would proclaim that there is beauty in insignificance, in the little acts that you and I witness every day, in that one grain of rice that reaches the empty belly.

The kindness of strangers in a new city, a word of encouragement uttered by a colleague during a difficult day at work, the ping of a “Have a good day!” by a loved one, a tear shed, a smile shared, a minute spared. These are the little acts in the libretto of your performance, insignificant when merely glanced at, but supremely important. In a time where we are being held hostage by countless lockdowns and jingoistic nationalisms, the Webb images are freeing. Not as a means of escaping our present, rather, they serve as a reminder that we are surrounded by beauty and bound by little acts that we practice each day, with strangers and loved ones — that we are in this together.

Since I started my professional journey back in 2017, I’ve been dealt a mixed bag of workplace experiences. The good, the bad and the ugly, and the ugly has not been the kindest. It instilled in me a fear for the new, a paralysing helplessness where I was afraid of what new experiences would end up dumping on my plate. In all this uncertainty, it were those little acts by countless around me that pulled me through, and made me take the leap to become a part of The Mavericks in mid-October last year. And the truly riveting surprise has been that 9-months in, I keep experiencing the beauty and power of the little check-ins, the words of encouragement at a job well done and consolation at the not-so-well-done, tidbits of daily learnings and musings, the faint whiff of camaraderie and the beginning of friendships. Even in tumultuous times, the people who make The Mavericks restored my faith in the beauty of empathy and understanding — a miniscule galaxy of hard work and grand hopes.

This star-speckled space opera of bright blues and humble browns is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. | Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

The Webb images, for me, served as a reminder that every performance needs to have a conflict for the character to grow (and maybe this was mine), that every performance matters and needs to be experienced in its entirety for the opera to have a resounding end. As a child who has always been clueless about her goal/ambition in life (and I still am), being surrounded by driven colleagues, successful contemporaries and the unafraid GenZ makes me deeply anxious. I feel that I am always chasing a crescendo I am unaware of, or maybe that I forgot the script of life along the way. When I greedily lapped up the slew of articles and opinions that came after the release of these images, I realised that they all had one thing in common — no article deconstructed the ‘purpose’ of the universe or detailed the ‘goal’ of the cosmos. What they marveled at, was the beauty, the collective experience of our shared history, and the giddy excitement of future discoveries.

So as I sit here penning these thoughts in a dazed delirium, I find solace in the idea that it is okay to not have a goal, or know your purpose for now. I have light years left to figure out the closing of my cosmic opera. And till then, I will continue to be inspired and find muses in the little acts around me and at The Mavericks, just like I do when I gaze up and beyond at a happily, jewel-studded night sky.

*End Scene*

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