Most of it is nothing to fret about: a chip of paint flaked off a rocket here, a tool carelessly cast adrift there, a chunk of a satellite now and then– but it moves incredibly fast: nine times the speed of a bullet and it is up there right now, buzzing over our heads like a swarm of angry hornets.
Sooner than later, it will all come down.
I don’t worry about the tiny bits. These will burn up in the upper atmosphere and if we are lucky, we will see them as shooting stars streaking across the night sky.
But it’s the big stuff I worry about – the spy satellites.
There is a long chain of them, a hundred miles up, each larger and heavier than a Greyhound bus, slowly sinking into the atmosphere like a row of surfers on a spent wave.
Nobody knows when and where they will crash.
It’s the karma of physics: everything we shoot up, inevitably falls back on us.
But there is also the physics of karma to worry about. All the mistakes we have made. All the things we should not have done – all orbit our lives like space junk and on each orbit, they inch a little closer.
The little things we probably do not have to fret about. The white lie, the supermarket gossip, the forgotten thank you. These things just burn away in the course of living. But the bigger things we should worry about. Those are the things that land with a thud.
We may have forgotten the jilted lover until they appear across the table at our job interview.
We may not recall the name of the kid we bullied in high school until we read it on the cop’s badge who just pulled us over….
As we get older, these things accumulate. They orbit our lives, slowly gaining mass until even the little things get big enough to punch through and do real damage.
As children, we never thought sliding into second base came at a cost but now we pay the price with every step.
In college, we pickled our brains. Now we struggle to remember where we put our keys.
And the money we so foolishly spent – it rains down on us as debt.
These are the things we need to worry about, the junk that orbits the earth and our lives. Even if we have escaped being hit by anything serious, we still know what is out there and some of it is big. It moves incredible fast and it has our name on it.