Once, after when, while in high school Jerome confessed to his parents that he was an atheist, Maggie asked him "How do you remain humble without God?

They walked, as they often did, around a park near their home at night. At the question, Jerome smiled and looked up at the sky.
"Easy, Mom." He took her hand, answering in his typical eloquent way, "Look up at the stars. The vast night between them. Look up and think how even the smallest of stars can fit 1500 Earths inside it, and countless trillions of people."

Tears streamed from his eyes as he spoke.
"Think of the Andromeda Galaxy, and how the light it shines on us has been traveling here since before homo sapiens existed, or think of Earth itself."

"What about it?"

"Well Earth is... about 4.5 billion years old. Modern humans have existed for maybe 200,000 years.
"To put it another way. Imagine Earth's history is a calendar. Our current civilization would have began on December 31st, 11:59:59.99999, and so on, at the last fraction of the last second. The ball is about to drop, champagne spilled and Bam! Here we are, a flash of evolution.
"How can you be anything but humble in the face of your insignificance?"

She reached up to his cheek, brushed away a tear.

"But then, Jer, if our lives are so small, what's the point of it all. Why get up in the morning? Why live?"

"Even though I am nothing more than a gasp...
"Even though as the universe blinks, you, me, and all of humankind may disappear, in the space of that second, there is love. There are people who matter to me, and who care about me. What else can small, intransigent people care about but small intransigent things?
"To use, this world, this universe, is big. And while life may be over in a flash, in its passing, the moments are long. So... why live? Because well, what else is there?"

By now they had sat on a park bench, both admiring the glittering heavens above.
Maggie sighed: "You're going to make some lucky girl very happy someday."

The significance of the subtle shift in his expression as she spoke didn't occur to her until much later, the night after she barged, unannounced, into his dorm room.
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