We often meet people who act as if they are at the centre of the universe. These egocentric people behave as if they are the most important people in the world and that their words and actions are more meaningful than they actually are, while assuming that they play an important role in other people’s lives. This is a common belief in children who are still learning to differentiate the world and other people from their own minds, but in adults, it is almost pathological.
Speaking of which, where is the centre of the universe?
In ancient times, the concept of “universe” was very different. Many cultures imagined the universe as consisting of the Earth where we lived, plus the heavens and the underworld (often supposedly where the good and bad end up after death respectively). These worlds would be connected by a central axis mundi, or world axis. An example of this is the mighty Yggdrasil, the World Tree, found in Norse mythology. It is said to be a gigantic tree that connects the Nine Worlds and is the centre of all life.
As the science of astronomy developed, we realised that we are not at the centre of the universe. Geocentrism – the model where Earth is at the centre of the world with the Sun, Moon and planets orbiting it – eventually gave way to heliocentrism – the modern model where the Solar System orbits around the Sun.
It took brave scientists such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei challenging the Church and Aristotelian science establishments to show that our understanding of the universe was wrong, despite pressure and punishment. Through scientific observation and inquiry, it was shown that we are not at the centre of the world, but the Sun is.
But as we discovered more about the heavens, we realised that the universe is far vaster than the Solar System. With the advent of the Big Bang Theory, we realised that the universe is expanding, with every object moving away from each other in all directions. This is an extremely difficult concept to visualise, but because the universe is expanding infinitely in all directions, it technically has no centre.
On a final note, the concept of the universe being infinite may not be relevant to us because we cannot observe the infinite universe. Instead, we often talk about the Observable Universe, which is the portion of the universe that we can physically observe with our eyes, telescopes and other instruments. The centre of the observable universe, like anything observable, is the observer.
Therefore, in some sense of the phrase, you are technically at the centre of the universe.