I was trying really hard not to stare at the sun this morning. It was especially bright, making driving hard but making the walk in the cold a bit more pleasant with its warm radiant glow. I started thinking about how neat it is that life on Earth exists only because we're just the right distance from this gigantic perpetual explosion so fierce that light takes 8 minutes to travel here, yet we can still feel its warmth and not burn up and die. We're on the luckiest rock in the loneliest place, to quote a song by Hollerado.
Then I started thinking about light. Light comes in many forms on Earth, but the only naturally occurring source of regular light is the sun. Before fuckin' flashlights and stuff, we used the light of the sun (be it direct or bouncing off the moon) to make our way through this world. It's pretty neat that higher life forms have adapted eyesight as a way to passively observe our surroundings, as opposed to actively like bats using sonar to "see". Light is already there and we just take advantage of it.
Then I started thinking about the nature of light. It's made of photons, we all know that. Photons zip through the universe at the speed of light, and when they bounce off of things and into our eyes, our brains recognize the stimulus of incoming photons and, depending on the wavelength, interpret them as different colours or shades. The ability to distinguish between different colours and shades is what allows us to see this stuff.
Then I realized: all these photons were around for billions of years before the first eyeball ever evolved. Before the first light-sensitive cells evolved. So... what in the hell were photons doing before we arrived to observe them? We take for granted that light is there to show us what's up the road, but never to stop to think that if we weren't there to observe the different wavelengths of photons being bounced off that dead cat, the dead cat would still be visible in the sense that photons are bouncing off it at different wavelengths no matter what.
So why are the photons even there? What's the point of the different wavelengths? We observe them daily but this phenomenon wasn't put there for our benefit. We adapted to an already existing system in order to take advantage for evolutionary and survival purposes, but those photons have been bouncing around the universe on their own since forever, for no good reason that I can think of.
If a tree falls in a forest...
Neat side note: have you ever noticed that when you look at a picture of the sun online (or in a magazine, Grandma), you perceive it as extra bright, when in reality it's the exact same shade of white as the background of the Google page (or the paper, Grandma)? Go ahead, scroll up and try it.