Insignificant Crown by Joe Dees


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For fourteen billion years this universe has been.
So tells the tale of the red shift of microwaves:
That Big Bang echo which permeates its every space.
More than four billion years ago our own planet formed.
A billion years later life first appeared upon it.
Mutation and selection, competition and cooperation
All fused to evolve this teeming cauldron of life
Comprised by, among other things, us.

The typical adult human brain
Measures close to ninety cubic inches
And weighs around three pounds.
Within it are contained tens of billions of neurons
Connected by many billions of dendritic limbs
By means of which they talk to one another.
Their branches, anchored in sturdy axon trunks
Each twig into a thousand synaptic buds
Which radiate out to touch the buds of other cells.

This mass of tightly convoluted flesh
Remains the single most intricate thing
Yet discovered in our universe;
It contains such complexity that it breaches recursive limits
Achieving both perception and self-reference.
Conscious awareness of both self and surroundings emerges
And these impressions are symbolized
And abstracted into linguistic concepts.
Thusly is mind born:
That dynamic becoming
Which is at once both within and peering into its world.
This tiny labyrinthine weave within the great vast universe
Possesses the capacity to apprehend and name
Not only its encompassing whole
But also itself.
It is truly a crown of cosmic creation
Blessing the brow upon which it rests
By means of its gifts of inner vision and cognition.

And yet, there are six billion humans living today.
Individual exceptionalism
Is drowned in a deluge of profusion.
We all huddle together
On the skin of our common home:
Just one of several planets
Circling one of many billions of stars
Tucked away inside the crook
Of one elbow of the Milky Way -
Itself one of many galaxies
Which form one of several superspirals
Contained within the immense wheel and span
Of a massive material reality
Which circumscribes such vast distances that light itself
Which travels a fifth of a million miles in a second
Would take billions of years to traverse it.

This ancient colossus cares not that we exist.
It cares not that eons ago
It birthed by happenstance the conditions for our creation.
We mean nothing at all to this grand
Yet insensate insentience surrounding us
Nor does it harbor value or affection for anything else.
Although we evolved here, and thus do belong
We are nevertheless merely unnoticed motes of becoming being
Crowded masses of miniscule matter-clothed souls
Filmed across the surface of a still-cooling stone
Spun into a forgotten corner of this gigantic sphere.
And our glittering proud crown
Blanches and pales to nattering insignificance
By comparison with the greater oblivious order of things.