I have a vivid memory of being absolutely content, the most peaceful and oddly happy I have been in recent times, even though for an ephemeral moment. And all of this because of an app.
Who would have thought?
We all have, on an average, 70-80 apps on our phone, right? For how many of them can you say that it gives you joy? Apparently not many, I assume. In fact, our experience has been contrary. Well, I have one and I’ll tell you why.
But for you to appreciate the intention, we would have to do a little time travel. Ready?
It’s sometime around December. Winter is at its full swing and the wall clock is ticking 2:35 AM. I have just finished my work for the day and put my laptop on hibernate. I got off my chair, ready to sleep. But you can see something is not right. There is just so much unease. I have had a series of painful days, had frequent dates with disappointments and it reflects on my weary face.
It’s pin-drop silence of the night. There is no sound except occasional barking of the street dogs and a spinning fan. Yeah! a fan and no, it’s not here or anywhere near my home (who would operate a fan in this chilly weather?). It’s a distant wave, carried over by the wind, attenuated to its last breath, now barely standing to make an ambient sound. Contrary to this, my mind is in complete turmoil, totally chaotic.
Remember any movie scene where everything is going calm and serene and suddenly there are noisy flashbacks and then back to the present. Yeah! that’s how it would have looked if you could see me and then inside my head back to back.
There is my younger brother, sleeping on the bed. The cutest little being. I lie down beside him and hold his tiny, warm hand in mine. I am wishing, I am praying for it to give me the strength to pass through yet another night like it always does. I can’t sleep because I don’t deserve it. And like most of us do, I open my phone and there is this notification –
So there is this football field-sized,
100 billion dollars incredible machine floating above us. For those who don’t know, it’s called the International Space Station and it is equipped with crazy high-definition cameras which beam back live view of our planet.
I open the notification and there it is, our gigantic blue planet, rotating, and revolving (although not apparent in this frame), going on its course like it has for past billions of years. There is no music. In fact, there is no sound at all. There are no laughs or cries or screams or calls that make it there. All there is, are the breathtaking views as it passes over the Pacific Ocean, then ice covered Antarctica, the illuminated countries in the night time and lands covered in clouds in the day. It’s wheezing past over them faster than we humans could ever go here on earth.
I keep watching this stream unfold for minutes and suddenly my frantic gaze starts searching for something, almost subconsciously. The ISS was passing overhead my region and so I thought, even if the cameras might not resolve me and other people from that distance, I should be able to spot my problems.
Yeah! my problems. Apparently, my worries felt much bigger than the physical self, so it must be here, somewhere.
No matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find it. How insignificant were they that I couldn’t see them from just 400km above?
And just like that, I felt a peculiar calm within. I was neither laughing nor smiling but I was oddly happy. It was different than all the other time I have been happy and this made me question if there was any equivalence between the two.
Gradually, I transformed into an amorphous being and blended in with the airglow that wraps the earth. I was the aurora over the northern hemisphere, dancing with the charged particles trapped in earth’s magnetic field. Then I broke free and got along with that tiny Hydrogen atom floating indefinitely in space. I was infinite.
There are two ways to reach the stars –
- You make an elaborate scenery inside your head. You fill it with the planets, stars, asteroids, comets and tiny little ions. You can make the binary system like two friends holding hands spinning around the circle, rejoicing. You can eliminate the bad stuff like the black holes, the pulsars, and all the explosions. There is no reason for it to be vacuum so you can fill it whatever you want – air, candies or your favorite fragrance (subsequently particles). You can hop on the cloud carpet and whizz past the galactic course and interplanetary garden. You can have it all. All you have to do is dream.
- You dream, you imagine, you study and realize that it doesn’t just have to be inside your head. The secrets of the universe are guarded by certain physical laws whose key lies with precise mathematical calculations. The tryst for exploration has propelled humanity to venture into unknown and we must continue that endeavor.
Mind you, neither of them is easier than the other. If you adopt any one of them, you might as well be true to it.
I get to do both. By night, I dream of the world beyond and by day, I work on bringing those dreams to reality. Two worlds blend together. My dreams were grounded in reality to begin with. And that way, the stars feel all the more close.
Desperately, reaching recklessly toward the sky. Launching that massive object in search of something, almost overwhelmingly far in the distance.
I have felt my celestial bliss and superlunary happiness being an earthling. I have seen the worlds, just like our own, which are not so apparent to my “human” eyes. I have caught glimpses of the distant galaxies playing with Hubble’s images. I have traversed through interstellar space and looked back to our pale blue dot and realized – there is no reason for all the emotions to be confined on this fragile planet. It is so unfair this way.
Additional Notes –
- I almost completed this post once which I had been writing for the past 4 days but then because of the technical glitz with WordPress editor, the entire post got deleted. I couldn’t retrieve it even after multiple attempts. So, I rewrote this version from all the things I remembered.
In a way, this post is a tribute to an app but also so much more. Also, I don’t use ‘ISS HD Live‘ often so as to not overwhelm myself.
- The feature image is of Astronaut Bruce McCandless II performing the first untethered spacewalk during the mission STS-41-B. I wonder if he was scared to float into oblivion or the happiest he has ever been. Did he feel his celestial happiness?
While we are on the topic, something interesting happened a few weeks ago. On March 2nd, SpaceX launched its inaugural Dragon2 capsule on DM-1 Mission. This spacecraft is meant for astronauts which brings up a new era of human spaceflight. On Sunday, March 3rd, it was about to dock with the ISS. I was watching the entire live stream and the docking almost felt like a scene from the Interstellar. At that instant, I knew I had to make this and so I did –
I posted this tweet in reply to Elon Musk’s tweet. Soon enough, it started gaining momentum and then I went to sleep, not knowing what I would wake up to. Overnight, my tweet exploded. There were hundreds of comments, thousands of retweets and my phone notifications kept going off. Senpai Musk himself has retweeted it and for the whole next day, I was kind of trending on the nerd Twitter 🙂
It was kind of distracting but I also realized how much power does a small creation hold. People got to realize how a sci-fi movie, released just 5 years ago, has been turned into reality by genuine human effort. We are living in revolutionary times indeed.