When you come out in a conservative society, you can get all kinds of reactions. One of the most hurtful ones for me was, “your life has no meaning and zero importance.” Do lives of cis, hetero people have more meaning than the lives of queer people? And what is the meaning of life? Ironically, a few months before my coming out, I talked about the meaning of life with the same person and all they could tell me was, “unfortunately, I haven’t figured that out.” Finding the meaning of life is probably a harder task than exploring the universe, but as a scientist, I am always looking for answers to the hardest questions one can ask.
My job is to explore the universe and the galaxies in it. I often hear how people feel insignificant when they think about the immensity of the universe. I have never felt this way. The more I learned about the universe, the more I was fascinated by it. It starts with the Big Bang and ends with an enormous variety of galaxies, stars, planets and, I believe, life on those planets, including humans. Humans are creatures capable of comprehending the scale of the universe and its mechanisms, while being a small part of that universe. We are something like a small detail of a wristwatch, aware of both the watch’s inner workings and our place in its function. Why do we have this drive to explore such a complex mechanism as the universe? This is not just a question about the universe; this is a question about our inner world, our feelings, which drive our decisions.
I believe that humans create art and science as ways to explore and expand our knowledge of the world. Science seeks knowledge about the outer world, and art encompasses knowledge about the inner world. Although the experience of human emotion is created by the chemistry of the brain, emotion is real to us and makes up part of our reality that can be explored through art. I still do not know why I admire art and science, but this admiration is enough for me to believe that they are worth doing.
This exploration of the world cannot be done by one person alone. Every human being plays an important role in making the development of humanity possible. Some people create art, some people create science, and some people make their creation possible in other ways. I make my small contribution to human knowledge because I have an internal desire to do so. I am able to do this because someone cooks food in the canteen, someone drives the trains that transports me from city to city, someone has built the house in which I live, and someone takes away the trash from the streets, all to make my life comfortable. And I do not think that these contributions to our collective knowledge can be compared in any way, just as you cannot directly compare the role of stars, galaxies and dark matter in making human existence possible.
Humans appeared due to the probability that at least one planet created in an incredible number of galaxies and stars would be suitable for life. A planet cannot be created out of nowhere. Stars are necessary to produce heavy elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen–the building blocks of life–and they would never appear in the universe without small fluctuations in the density of dark matter, which lead to collapse of primordial gas and formation of first stars. What does it mean to be insignificant? Is a planet not hosting life insignificant? Or is it an important part of a complex system making our existence possible?
I believe the latter–that a diversity of planets is required to create life and a diversity of humans is required to create art and science. Humans would never have reached our achievements if no one stood out from the crowd. Just like every cell in a human body needs oxygen, every human needs freedom. Creativity is impossible without freedom and, in turn, development is impossible without creativity. Are queer people less significant than the rest of humanity? Are any human lives less significant than others? I have not found any evidence for that. On the contrary, the universe has taught me that diversity is not just important, it is beautiful. I read the stories of ISNBS members and I admire the work they do. Just like seeing hundreds of different galaxies, seeing people of different race, origin, gender, sexual orientation doing wonderful things fills me with admiration and appreciation. After all, I owe them all my life, which does have a meaning.