Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pale Blue Dot

 Sagan points out that "all of human history has happened on that tiny pixel, which is our only home" (speech at Cornell University, October 13th 1994, shown here inside a blue circle).

In his book, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, Carl Sagan related his thoughts on a deeper meaning of this photograph:
From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it's different. Look again at that dot. That's here, that's home, that's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
Just think about that little pixel on this photograph of the planet Earth taken in 1990 by Voyager 1 from a record distance, showing it against the vastness of space. By request of Carl Sagan, NASA commanded the Voyager 1 spacecraft, having completed its primary mission and now leaving the Solar System, to turn its camera around and to take a photograph of Earth across a great expanse of space. It is an amazing thought that we inhabit that small pixel.  When we worry about all those things in life, when we worry about what someone has said to us, when we worry about the hate associated with small minded people, etc.  All of those things are made insignificant by that little pale blue dot as seen from a man-made satellite as it leaves the Solar System.  For me this just says so much about our existence.  God placed us on this this pale blue dot to do something, to achieve something, and that something is to treat others as we would like to be treated.  It doesn’t matter how they treat us, but how we treat them.

June is Gay Pride Month.  PrideNotPrejudiceGo out and do something that no other group does during the month associated with them.  What do I think we should do?  I think we should show random acts of kindness.  That is how we can truly show our pride.  I hope you will join me in this month of celebration by not getting upset at the homophobes that exist, but instead treat them as you wish to be treated.  I realize that this is a plea of a pacifist, but it is also a plea for humanity and equality.  We are all a part of that pale blue dot, and we must find a way to live in harmony.


Vilges Suola said...

There are homophobes who want us dead. They want laws enacted that would have homosexuals executed, and imprison people who do not turn known homosexuals in to the police. I don't see how 'love thine enemies' is likely to work on them.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Joe. And it's too bad that Vilges only sees the homophobes, etc. I prefer to ignore them (as much as they can be ignored) and concentrate on the people for whom my (our) sexuality isn't an issue. To them, I can be kind.

Peace <3

Vilges Suola said...

Where did I say I only see the homophobes? I live in a pretty enlightened milieu where my sexuality is not an issue, and anyone who decided to make it one would be looked at very askance. However, in world terms I'm a rare and fortunate species. I think homophobia needs to be challenged, satirised, argued with. I ain't turnin no other cheek!

JoeBlow said...

Vilges and Jay, the homophobes will never change their minds. I realize that random acts of kindness will not work on them, but it will with those on the fence about us. It is those people that we can change their minds. Once you have those who already accept us, and those who we show them that there is nothing to fear, then we will have the strength behind us to defeat the homophobes. I will post a longer opinion piece tomorrow explaining my philosophy, and I hope that you will both join in and read it and that we can have a good discussion about the gay rights movement.

. said...

Well said Joe....very well said. It's a worthwhile effort. I will be trying to find something good again to do for someone else. Have a great week ahead!!

JoeBlow said...

Thanks, (.). I hope you have a great week ahead too.

Mack said...

I actually kind of disagree with your comment. I think random acts of kindness DO work.
My experience is that it's always different when you know someone. Somebody may say that s/he hates gays, but then when that same person has experiences a gay or lesbian as a person and not a caricature, the hate does fade away, albeit in small amounts. But, one step at a time these things can break down barriers and phobias.

Great post!

JoeBlow said...

Mack, I do hope so. And you are right, one step at a time these things can break down barriers and phobias.