Astronomy and my view of our Universe

Tonight while doing some astronomy homework I managed to get lost in the last 2 chapters of the textbook, “The Beginning and the End” as well as “Life on Other Planets”. I don’t know how I got lost in these chapters, but they are more philosophical than the rest of the textbook. Its is very interesting to read about the big bang on one page, detailing how the universe began, and then a few pages later reading the few possible ways it could end. The most spectacular of ends involves all of the matter in the universe recollapsing once the expansion of the universe is complete, and then the tightly packed matter beginning to have gravity again, as well as internal heating and the whole damned thing starting all over again in a seemingly endless pattern of recycling. The most bleek is that the universe never reverses and everything keeps going away from everything else until radioactive decay has its effect on all matter in the universe and all protons fall apart, effectively ending the universe once and forever. Between these two theories, I am most likely to believe the recollapsing universe theory, since it seems as though the universe is constantly recycling and gravity tends to bring everything back eventually. The process is very plausible, since it would allow everything to be heated back to its original temperature, effectively breaking everything back to single electron elements (hydrogen). Funny thing is, go to the string theory people, they will tell you that our universe is much like a lightbulb, there is more than one in the box and one burning out isn’t a big deal.
We are star stuff and we are the way that the universe knows itself. It is possible that we are the first sentient life to exist in the universe (at least in this iteration of the universe cycle), which means we are somewhat of an accomplishment. We can’t know for sure if we are alone, but even if we aren’t, we can’t be sure that other civilizations would be as curious as us and want to explore space, or if they would be as persistent.