A History of Receding Horizons

We can surprise ourselves

[Original post from Quarter Turn’s predecessor, You’re So Venn]

Edwin Hubble, the namesake for the Hubble Space Telescope, didn’t formally take up astronomy until the age of 25.

He’d loved the subject since childhood, and studied astronomy among his other subjects as an undergrad, but had promised his ailing father—an insurance executive—that he would study law. And he did, for a time. But his heart wasn’t in it, and so when he went to graduate school he returned to astronomy, and went on to make history in that field.

Hubble’s work led to the Big Bang theory. It supported the idea of an expanding universe. He pushed out the horizons of what was known, and left behind what could have been a comfort zone (a cushy career in law) to radically change the scope and scale of our knowledge of outer space.

At the risk of trivializing his words, they speak—on a rather smaller scale—to what each of us is capable of, in our own lives. Whatever the size of our own discoveries, we each can build a history of receding horizons. We can push back the boundaries of what we believed likely, or possible.

We can surprise ourselves.

Only outside our comfort zones, of course. Looking out from a comfort zone we make assumptions about what’s possible or not, and those assumptions are often flawed. For example, I spent years in a career comfort zone because of assumptions about what I could or should do, and the opportunities that would be open to me.

It was only when I made a change that I discovered ideas I would never have imagined myself having, before.

When we describe unique things we often say they’re like snowflakes: each one different from the next. Comfort zones are like that—unique to each of us. And while there’s no single answer for what will help us outside of one, sometimes we need things that push us, in the right way, to be uncomfortable (in the right way).

Maybe it’s a person.

Maybe it’s an event or epiphany.

However they find us, reminders are important that if we always keep our arms and legs inside the ride at all times, our universe will never expand. That our horizons won’t recede on their own.

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