Map of the Universe

A NYTimes essay about a newly drafted logarithmic map of our entire known cosmology reminded me about a paradox of our existence. Each of us is insignificant in terms of magnitude, yet significant in terms of position as the center of our personal universe. The essayist writes:

That is one of the lessons of Einstein’s theory of relativity. Because light travels at a finite speed, to look out is to look back. The center of the universe is everywhere or nowhere. It is the present, and in it each of us is surrounded by concentric shells of the past, history racing in at 186,284 miles per second. The page you are reading, from perhaps a foot away is a nanosecond in the past; the moon you see is history by one and a half seconds; that fading radiation from the Big Bang, the fiery cataclysm in which the universe was born, is about 14 billion years ago.

Just as all roads led to Rome, all lines of sight in the Einsteinian universe lead back to the beginning. Our birth in a sense surrounds us.

Everything I observe has already happened; everything I do defines my present moment, and your future. Since I am the one with the most knowledge and power over my present position, I am essentially god of my universe. Yet at the same time, I am embedded in the womb of my past environment, which I must observe carefully and react to intelligently, or else risk my ability to see the birth of moments in my future.

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A prophet on the burning shore