The Sun is constantly feeding upon itself. Its massive, insatiable gravity continuously draws tiny atoms of hydrogen closer and closer until they are mashed together with such ferocity that the energy of a bazillion nuclear bombs is released into space in every direction, at every moment. The leavings and the crumbs of this solar feeding frenzy – the bits and pieces of energy that escape gravity and shoot out into space in straight, outward lines - travel seemingly forever at the speed of light until they intersect an object. Left unimpeded, this energy continues its outward migration - first as searing radiation, then as naked heat, then finally as faint points of light and radio waves that penetrate the Universe.
Eventually these parcels become so diffuse that they seem to shrivel up and fade away. But energy is never created from scratch in this Universe, nor is it ever completely destroyed. The fierce energy of the sun has radiated, warmed and illuminated many things along its way. The energy is still there. It’s just no longer somewhere. Now it’s everywhere.
It is my birthday* and I am lying in the sun, soaking up that energy and attempting to fine-tune and reset my internal clock to its original configuration. Those little particles of energy that fled the sun in such a hurry have covered the 93,000,000 miles to Earth in only eight minutes and change. They have been screaming furiously through space at the speed of light, and with the exception of the Earth’s atmosphere and a few fluffy cumulous clouds, they have traveled unimpeded.
The little bits of solar energy are about to slam into my body at 186,000 miles per second! (In even more familiar terms, that would be well over a half billion miles per hour… try that the next time you’re on the freeway.) I can feel the heat on my skin; my sweat glands jump into action. My retinas recoil in pain and my brain is filled with red, yellow and orange, even though my eyes are closed. I can taste the Sun’s hot breath. It smells of helium fragments and bacon bits.
My goal is to collect energy from everywhere and organize it back to somewhere. I am using this energy to reset my internal clock. This is the same view of the Universe that I first encountered sixty-two years ago when I was born. The alignments, the interplay of gravities, the orientation of the stars is the same. This is zero, as precise as it gets. My own timing seems to have slowed ever so slightly over the past year so I make a mental note and shift time forward two clicks, then three clicks more, then back one, then back another. I account for the speed of light, the thickness of the atmosphere and the angle of entry. I click back one more tiny notch, and I’m there… I’m back on Universe Standard Time.
I breathe deeply and settle back into the peace and warmth. I’m good for another year.
*Actually TODAY is not my birthday, that was a couple of months ago. But on the day that I wrote this it WAS my birthday so, in a sense, today IS my birthday as far as the dear reader is concerned. Just add two months to your solar clock and go back to your reading. Rest assured, on Universe Standard Time it always works out in the end.