Feeling small can be a good thing. Too often self-importance is overblown and every man and his dog believes they have the ability to prove anything they do or say is more right than anything you do or say. Arguing over who ate the last slice of bread, why the Greens have the moral higher ground on any issue or the semantics of third-world wages and exactly how much those less fortunate get paid for more than 20 minutes may seem rational at the time, but written down it is plain silly.

To get perspective, I like to look to the night sky.

Back in Brisbane, I lived on two and half acres where the stars, moon and Milky Way were easily accessible. Just a hop, skip and jump into the paddock where the stratosphere, shooting stars and all, were plain to see. The only impediment was the occasional droppings from a colony of bats over-head.

But in the big smoke it’s harder to get your head out the box that is your home or workplace. What do I have for dinner? When is that bill due? Who used the last of the toilet paper and didn’t buy any more? The latter is by far the worst.

So how can urban-folk with lights and planes glaring out the universe above get some perspective?

For the poor student type I recommend an “end of the line” trip. You simply buy an all-day ticket and ride the train, tram or bus until you reach the end. Hang around until nightfall and find a not-too dodgy park to get comfortable in. Hopefully you will be far enough away from the city lights to make out your insignificance in the twinkles.

If you have a car, go for a drive. It doesn’t have to be too far, perhaps to a national park or just pick an exit off the highway, as before just make sure there are between one and five million stars above. Utilise space in your boot by popping in a picnic rug, a pillow and if you’re feeling a bit posh, perhaps some brie and crackers to nibble on while gazing.

The third option is to look up your local planetarium. They are mind-boggling. From the more traditional “star balls” to digital projections, it’s difficult not to feel like an amoeba. For a sneak preview of the stars to look out for this month, the Melbourne Planetarium gives you Skynotes.

You can find planetariums in many major cities, from Perth, Wollongong, Sydney, Brisbane, Launceston and Adelaide. Or if you’re feeling particularly lazy, you can always check out the images out of the European Southern Observatory — they’re great for procrastination.

Next time you realise your head is growing in circumference, look at the stars and realise, in the grand scheme of things, you really aren’t that important.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey