Of all the things my father taught me, the trick of switching time scales to put present troubles in perspective is the one on my mind today. The whole of human history is but a blink of the cosmic eye, each of our own lives so infinitessimal.
As a child, I was both terrified and fascinated by the astonishing vastness of space and time which he described. When I feared the implosion of the sun or the final fate of the whole universe, his idea of comfort was to calmly point out that we and everyone else would be very long dead by then, so why bother worrying? When I understood the threat of nuclear war, I was supposed to be calmed by the idea that we'd be instantly vaporized and never know it happened.
I doubt this is the standard advice for soothing an anxious child. I don't think it soothed me much at the time, in fact, but I definitely internalized the idea that it should be calming. And by now I understand the lighthearted but purposeful approach to life that can come from embracing the dizzying terror of it all.
On that note, a short video this week that I loved and which I think Dad would have loved, too:
Also, an article that is long but absolutely worth the time to read: Neanderthals Were People, Too by Jon Mooallem for the New York Times.