Perspective of the “Pale Blue Dot”

As 2019 draws to a close, I like many others find myself looking back before looking forwards.

I scan backwards over the past 12 months and sift through events, challenges, disappointments, outstanding moments, the pain, the celebrations.

This practise is self focused and inward looking, and as my life experiences are everything to me, filled with personal importance.

So when this image of the Pale Blue Dot flitted past me, it landed. All of my past year moments are here. So small. And in Carl Sagan’s words: “everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives” on this “mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”

Perspective.

But not to say our goals and attempts at self improvement and learning are futile. Not at all. Without constant self development and betterment of life, what would be the point? I say keep at it with the learning, the growing, the spiritual and physical rising, the work, the goal setting, the risk taking, the kindness and consideration. The full embodiment of a human life. Life is short. YOLO!

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The “Pale Blue Dot” photograph captured by the Voyager 1 (NASA/JPL)

In 1994, Carl Sagan delivered a beautiful speech at Cornell University, inspired by the Voyager’s landmark photograph of Earth seen for the very first time from the outer reaches of the Solar System — a now-iconic image the spacecraft took on Sagan’s spontaneous insistence before shutting off the cameras upon completion of the planned mission to photograph the outer planets.

In describing what the Voyager captured in that grainy photograph of mostly empty space, Sagan limned Earth as a “pale blue dot.” That became the moniker of the photograph itself and the title of his bestselling book published later that year, in which he wrote that “everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives” on this “mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”

These extracts are from brainpickings which is a truly beautiful, well curated and superbly written celebration of the human mind.

And here is the full quote (from Goodreads):

“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 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. 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.

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.”

Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

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