Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

The Universe

The Universe

Jennifer Hao

Year 11, Barker College

There is nothing. Only pure, vast emptiness. The universe stretches out in a million different directions, unfeeling and motionless.

But one day, the temperature sinks low enough, and it - a tiny, wondering singularity - explodes. Instantly, everything is showered in an effervescent glow, and hundreds of colours skirmish the atmosphere, splintering off and forming stars.

And just like that, nothing became everything.

That happened 14 billion years ago. 5 billion years ago, Earth was formed. 3 billion years ago, the first life form came into existence. A prokaryote, an organism without a nucleus. However, we didn't come into the equation until 1 million years ago. 

We have only existed for less than 0.01% of the universe's existence.

But we are anything but insignificant. 

It is a miracle that a single tear in the galaxy exploded at the right moment, and at the right temperature. It is a miracle that cosmic clouds of dust created the planet we stand on. It is a miracle that in our short history, billions of people have lived here too.

We've discovered language, music, philosophy, law, and so much more. We've figured out how to harvest food, how to fly, and how to harness electricity. But beyond any of that, we have the capacity to feel.

The capacity to smile, to laugh, to cry, to get angry, to fall in love and to feel pain. To empathise.

Despite this, we have all hurt people like ourselves. The history of humankind is full of triumphs, as much as it is full of failures. Failures to empathise.

Too often, we ignore those around us.

Someone is crying on the bus, deep in grief. You put on your headphones and drown out the sound.

Too often, we choose to focus on ourselves.

You complain for hours to your relative, without even asking about their life, when they need it the most.

Too often, we fail to offer support.

Your friend falls in love, but you smile disingenuously, doubting that their relationship will last long.

Too often, we spit out words of menace.

You tear down the ambitions of others, insulting everything from their talent to work ethic.

Too often, we neglect compassion.

You see a person on the street begging for money, but can't even look them in the eye.

Too often, we forget about the cruel things we've said, or the despicable things we've done. 

Instead, we carve out our own realities, where the only thing in our universe is 'I'.

Talk to the person crying on the bus. Exercise kindness, and empathise. Bond over shared experiences.

Properly catch up with your relative. Try to meet in person. Ask them about what's happened, and what their goals for the future are.

Listen to your friend's perspective. Genuinely support them and be happy for them.

Don't judge the capability of a person that you've just met, or even one you've known for ages. They will surprise you.

Give that person on the street your spare change. Start a conversation with them, and wish them the best.

The world is beautiful, and every single day is a miracle. Never forget that. Live life to the fullest, pursue your dreams, and never give up. Remember that people are moved by the same things as you are, and have passions much like you. This is humanity. So broaden your universe, and make space for others in there too. That's what matters.