Blown by the wind from a massive star,
this magnificent interstellar apparition
has a surprisingly familiar shape.
Cataloged poetically as NGC 7635,
it is also known as “The Bubble Nebula”.
The Bubble Nebula and associated cloud complex
lie a mere 7,100 light-years away, toward
the celestial constellation Cassiopeia.
It’s actually an emission nebula,
emitting its own light from within.
Although it looks delicate, it offers evidence
of violent processes at work.
Above and left of the Bubble’s center is a hot,
O-type star, imaginatively named SAO 20575.
Several hundred thousand times more luminous
and around 45 times more massive than the Sun,
it is pushing the nebula outward at a rate
of 100,000 kilometres per hour.
The fierce stellar wind and intense radiation from that star
has gradually blasted out the structure of glowing gas
against denser material in a surrounding molecular cloud
which excites the nebula, causing the material itself to glow.
That molecular cloud contains the rate of the bubble’s expansion,
resulting in the cosmic object’s nearly symmetrical appearance.
Meanwhile, back on this planet we as humans call Home,
there’s always opportunity for feasting, with anticipation
of even more to come, for those mischievous entities
who dwell among us, feeding on fear and negativity.
Imagine, however, if due to some miracle,
all of our self-inflicted cruelty were to cease.
Imagine if peace were to break out across the lands,
and all the sources of conflict resolved equitably,
with everyone getting what they believed
they were fighting for.
Additionally, imagine if all the forms of inequality,
poverty, and despair were eradicated all around the world,
so that utopian-type conditions came to prevail.
Even if all that were to happen, we would still be faced
with the inescapable specter of an underlying stress,
a contraction or knot in the being like a hot O-type star,
from which we have only been temporarily distracted
by the events and circumstances which heretofore
have managed to dominate our attention.
The whole search for independence and happiness
which has defined our existence and even driven us
to the desperate point of slaughtering each other
has the same basis, or source, in each one of us,
regardless of our nominal affiliations.
Indeed, if we were to stop right now and inspect
our own being, if we were to turn the light around
which we have been casting into the outer world
and take a close look at what is happening within us
at the core of our thoughts and feelings, we would notice
that this chronic contraction has been propelling us
like glowing gas in a fierce stellar wind.
That is, everything we think and do is the inevitable result
of our futile attempts to pacify, loosen, or be liberated
from this quintessential stressfulness.
All of our religious conflicts, all of our political conflicts,
all of our financial conflicts, all of our social conflicts,
and even down to the microscopic cellular level –
all is spinning around in the orbit
of this core contraction.
And what is it?
It is the cumulative stress of consciousness itself
which clings to any and every transient identity,
as if to a futile life raft on the vast celestial sea.
Only by letting go of all support and allegiance
to our vanity’s self-images which come and go
in time, can we freely expand out to infinity
with no molecular cloud of fixed identity
to limit or contain us.