Life – Special Blog from Keith Rayle

Our friend, Keith Rayle wanted to share a very special blog he wrote. 

Keith is a great friend of mine, and a mentor. He has helped this site tremendously in countless ways. 


I had a brother I hardly knew. My family was split up when I was young…brothers, a sister, half-brothers and sisters, cousins from who-knows-where, several step fathers. A real mess. I used to tell people we didn’t really have a family tree, it was more like a large pile of tangled fishing line. No telling where things went to and too convoluted to sort out.

A couple of year ago I got to finally meet and know my sister. We were split up when we were very young, and I only saw her briefly once or twice around the time I was 20 years old. I am 60 now, an old man that doesn’t recognize his own face but is still a teenager at heart, wondering where time really goes when we get done with it.

My sister is a truly wonderful person, the type of person I wish I had known all my life. I try to make up for that but there isn’t enough time left. If I could figure out where time goes maybe I could try to get some back and spend it with her. They say you have to spend money to make money, and that seems to be true for certain financial situations. Time isn’t like that. Spent is spent and gone.

My last remaining brother passed away last night. I got to know him because of my sister. He was a roadshow carnie, railroad car riding hobo, door-to-door salesman, hustler at times and a character at heart. His earlier years were spent traversing this country from one adventure to another. When I first met him I thought he was somewhat of a babbling old man, a windbag telling pointless stories. As I got to know him I became enamored with him and the person he became.

He knew times, dates, names and incredible amounts of details from his past. He would tell stories about arriving in some city without a dollar in his pocket, seeing a broken down car on the side of the road, and talking the owner into letting him try to fix it so they could sell it. Later on the profits would be spent buying some booze and chasing women, or looking for something else to buy and sell. His stories were hilarious, and included twists and turns that made everybody chuckle. He survived his youth and eventually became a very successful cars salesman. He did that at a single business for years, which speaks volumes in terms of staying power and talent. If you don’t believe it, take a look at the turnover rate for that profession next time you are at a dealership.

He lost his wife while on a cruise at sea, which was horrible to deal with in terms of emotions, laws and the overall situation. He dusted himself off and kept going, clinging to those he loved that remained in his life. I got to know him after that due to my sister connecting us together. Like everyone around him, I came to love him.

The sun is using up hydrogen at what we would consider a tremendous rate. Millions of tons a minute are converted into helium and energy. This massive pile of exploding materials keeps this planet warm enough for us to be here. The explosions are kept in check by gravity, which is actually the weakest force in the universe. The sun represents a delicate balance between exploding outward and compressing inward.

But some day that fuel will start to run out. When that happens, the mass of the sun will allow the explosions to win for a while. The sun will expand, turning to a reddish color as it does, and eventually grow large enough to consume the Earth. A good example in our night sky is Betelgeuse, the 9th brightest star in the night sky and a mere 400 light years (or so) from us. It is a red giant, and if placed within our solar system it would extend out past Jupiter.

When this type of expansion happens to our sun, everything we have built, all of nature that is left…everything…will be gone. The Earth gets consumed. But at some point the remaining hydrogen/helium reactions will slow enough to stop the exploding expansion, and mass/gravity will once again come into play. The sun will collapse, probably into a brown dwarf, pulsar, or some other oddity of the universe.

All the stars we see in the night sky are going through the same sequence. Some create huge black holes at the end of their life, with galaxies revolving around them as if worshipping their existence (or the lack thereof).

All because of hydrogen being converted into energy.

Hydrogen is the most plentiful element in the universe. The universe is infinite, or so we think. That concept is incredibly difficult to imagine let alone grasp as a truism. When we look at all the stars in the sky, each represents a massive conversion of hydrogen into helium and energy. As stars lose their fuel and begin the dying process, heavier elements are typically created. Gold uranium, iron, and others are assembled in the giant reactor, and if the star explodes, these elements are distributed back out into the universe.

But there is no known process by which hydrogen is created.

One day far, far in the future, the night sky will most likely darken. I suspect that hydrogen will simply run out, at least within our galactic neighborhood. It seems there is only so much gas in the tank (pun intended). I do not know about infinity, I simply know how to spell the word. Maybe this will happen throughout the universe. But even this wonderful, seemingly fixed night sky that is actually a dance measured in light years with velocities approaching the speed of light –  will simply end. Logic says it must. Maybe my logic does not apply, but from my simplistic perspective this is what has to happen. Again, I ponder infinity without truly understanding it.

So then….what is the real purpose?

I am a spiritual person but not necessarily religious. I have certain beliefs that I tend not to share much, mainly because they are personal in nature and I think the background noise is a little high. There are plenty of people that will tell you what to think and believe from a religious perspective. I do not want to join their ranks. Maybe over a few scotches we can go into it some, but generally I keep it private. I do have some thoughts about our purpose.

Like stars, we have our moment in time but the moment gets lost in time. There is little we can do about that. Nothing seems to end well, and everything ends. To a fatalist this would probably indicate the need to jump off the nearest bridge, but I think that simply shows a great deal of impatience. Sorry….bad joke right now.

Let me wrap this up. Take the time to get to know people, and cherish the ones that bring joy into your life. I am so grateful for the opportunity to get to know my sister as a person, even this late in life. I was lucky to get to know and love a long-lost brother. The time we shared was terribly brief.

One more thing. We all have bad situations and moments. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, try performing a truly anonymous act of kindness for a stranger who is in real need. An act that can never be repaid. An act only you and that person know about. An act you never talk about.

I guarantee you will find a new perspective on the universe.