When I was 5, I was given a book about space.
It was a tall, heavy book, with a dull grey cover, and the word S P A C E written across the top in huge red letters. When you opened it, it made no sense at all.
It was written for 13 year olds and I was 5. Hardly “this is cat” material.
Even though I couldn’t understand any of it, it kept drawing me back for more, because it had the most amazing pictures. There were pictures of stars, strange planets, different coloured blobs, explosions and drawings in the sky. Wow. I used to pour over those pictures for hours, trying to work out what they were or to understand what was written underneath.
The picture that intrigued me the most was one of rainbow coloured clouds amongst the stars, and inside those clouds was…
a headless man.
What on earth was he doing up there? Where did he even live? Because there was no house there either. Did he just stand there all day? And the most important question of all, where was his head?
That Space book ignited my curiosity and sent me asking questions for years. It wasn’t quick, easy or straightforward because there was so much I didn’t know about the world that I had to learn before I could answer my questions. Sometimes I forgot about the book for a long time until I saw something new, like another book or a TV show or something my parents or teacher had said. I’d get the book out again and see if I could understand more than before, and I usually could. Then it would be all space for a couple of nights and I’d grill my Dad for information again.
Over the years I found out the most amazing things. I learned that the things in my book were real and amongst the stars that I could see out my window at night. I learned that the sun would explode, that there were black holes that would suck everything in (even light!) and that the stars were suns and around them could be other planets with other me’s.
And finally, I learned that my headless man was not a man at all, but an enormous cloud of space dust that was making a new star.
It wasnt the answer I thought I’d get, but then isn’t the truth always more amazing?
I dont know if I would have learned all this if I hadn’t had that book. The information would have been out there, but if it wasnt for those amazing pictures of the headless man and the exploding suns, would I have noticed?
Even today I am still searching, and I am constantly surprised by the new things I learn and by the wonder of this world we live in. That old space book helped me realise that the universe is big and full of amazing things still being discovered, but more importantly it helped me realise the influence we have over our own learning and understandings. All it takes is something to spark your wonder, and a willingness to ask questions and step into the unknown.