My name is Tara and I am an astronomer. I study a branch of cosmology at a prestigious university, but the community is small enough that if I went into detail I could be identified. I will say that I am also an artist. I am an artist because art is math and astronomy is math. And astronomy is conceptualizing physics into measurable phenomena and art is translating those phenomena into tangible representations. The math that defines Lyman-alpha emission lines is the same math that determines light and shadows in multi-perspective art. And that is important.
What is also important is this: There is a gravitational anomaly about 200 million light years outside of our galaxy. We call this the Great Attractor, because it is great and we are apparently attracted to it. In fact, we are hurtling towards it at well over one million miles per hour. We also do not know actually know what it is. It could be literally nothing, as in a focal point of empty space surrounded by mundane massive superstructures; galaxy superclusters, galaxy filaments, Lyman-alpha blobs etc. Or it could be some single, solitary, unknown massive superstructure, it’s gravity alone enough to fight against the will of the Big Bang. It could even be a mathematical error. While an anomaly exists, and we are moving faster than we should be in a direction we should not be, it may not be focused at that point that we currently call the Great Attractor. While we generally consider ourselves not to be causally related to the unobservable Universe, new maths that not even I can condense into artistic representations hint at a Dark Flow pulling us from outside the observable Universe. But since it would come from outside the observable universe, it exists at the intersection of things that may well be true but also impossible to study or ascertain.
I, however, personally know there is something out there. I know. I feel it inside of me with the warm certainty of a mother who knows her child is safe after an accident. When I first learned of the Great Attractor, of Dark Flow, of unexplained red-shift anomalies, of the unknown pull to the unobservable and unknowable void beyond, the Universe-in-being, I felt a wave of… nostalgia? Yes, nostalgia. I knew that this Thing, this space, was me in some not-abstract way. I was an Instrument of this Great Attractor, using instruments to determine the Great Attractor, while racing towards it at a million miles an hour. No, not nostalgia. Retrouvailles. A returning home after a long journey. Learning of this Great Attractor triggered something inside of me, unlocking a door to my unconsciousness, opening up a part of my mind that I never realized was not accessible to me. It opened up a voice I cannot hear.
It calls to me in the moments before I drift off into sleep, and I awaken with its words on my lips. I take breaks to draw and relax, and find that hours later that I emerge from a foggy daze having sketched out bizarre non-Euclidean diagrams of things that cannot be. I sketch drawings, simple drawings of landscapes or people, and my body freezes as I attempt to draw a line connecting two points in space as if the part of my brain that knows how to draw the shortest path between two points doesn’t exist. I outline the fractal branches of a tree in the distance, and hours later end up with a mandala of lines and pustules and appendages and I have no idea how I went from a tree to that.
As I began to study cosmology, I began to draw connections between the shapes and lines I saw in my dreams or accidentally traced on paper with real physical cosmological structures. Zephyrs I had given motion lines on a canvas that went on to depict a meadow were almost identical to the branching ratios of a Higgs particle’s decay as a function of its mass. Astronomy, obviously, was a subject in a lot of my art, and to my surprise, the stars above me in a self-portrait synced up with six known galaxy walls. The bubbles on top of a drawing of my aquarium I painted matched up with the orbits of a recently discovered stellar system where my goddamn long-finned Oscar was the sun. Horror began to grip me as I slowly came to the conclusion that I was not fully in control of my own mind. Occasionally, I would wake up in cold sweats, not sure what imagines in my cerebral cortex has awoken me. The slow realization that I was subjected to some dual consciousness began to dawn on me. Hearing me narrate these words in my inner monologue right now still sends shivers down my spine.
But it’s also beautiful. Even positive discoveries can still be terrifying at first. I obviously cannot claim to fully understand why part of my consciousness is subjected to some unknown stellar sovereignty, but I know that it is and it is a liberating feeling. I have a sense of purpose in this immeasurably immense Universe. I have been selected as an actress on the largest of stages, though what play this is I know not. Part of my being is calling out to the Great Attractor or beyond, and it is using me. It is using me to help process geometry and geography, sacred maths and esoteric truths disguised as orbital mechanics, a network of cloud computing except the cloud is human. I exist for a reason in an interconnected Universe and, while that reason is a mystery, it is undeniable. I know it in my bones.
There is something grand and infinite on the edge of our universe, or maybe beyond, and this infinity exists within my mind. And I am heading home.