I had no idea spider monkeys were afraid of water. I was cleaning the spider monkey exhibit at the Belize City Zoo in Central America and all of the monkeys screamed and jumped to the sides of the cage. They did all they could to avoid the cold stream of water shooting out of the hose.
That night — as I laid in bed thinking about the monkeys, listening to the monotonous drone of my fan and the rustling of geckos and pacas around my tin-covered shack — I peered through a slit in the roof. The stars were so bright. There were so many; I could not subtilize how many there were. I was quite intimidated at that moment; the universe was so large, so distant, and I was so small.
This made me think of a Youtube video I had once seen in which a reader of Time Magazine asked American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson what he thought was the most astounding fact about our universe. Dr. Tyson began by explaining how the atoms that comprise all life on Earth can be traced back to stars that collapsed and exploded as new planets formed. When this occurred, the elements essential for life contained in these high-mass stars were scattered across the galaxy. Because of this, he states that “we are a part of this universe, we are in this universe, [and] the universe is in us.”
After thinking about this I did not feel so small anymore; I felt connected to everything around me. All life — my life, too — was created from those exact stars that I was looking at through the crack in my roof. But I still feared, “What is my ultimate purpose in this universe?” The same fear that the spider monkeys have of water is quite similar to the fear that we have when trying to discover true meaning in our lives.
As humans, we have such a strong avidity to know that we constantly ask ourselves questions to which we can only theorize answers. Amidst this constant inquiry, we must remember that no matter what race, faith, or sexual orientation we belong to we are all simply human. We are all connected, and this reality cannot be forgotten.
So, I challenge you. Look up at the night sky and just think. Don’t look for answers; don’t ask yourself why you are alive or what you are doing on Earth. Just think about life as a pure and simple essence of being. Simply think about being alive and how great that truly is. Look up at the stars, feel the breeze, and listen to whatever is around you — whether that be birds chirping or the evening rush hour traffic. Realize that you are connected to everything on Earth, even the spider monkeys at the Belize Zoo. Understand that you are a part of it all; participation in life is your true purpose.
You are alive.