Saturday, April 07, 2012

the pale blue dot

images of venus and the earth taken with a long lens
have been composited into their relative locations
in this wide-angle photograph
after 12 years in space, the voyager I spacecraft was 3.7 billion miles from earth and nearing the edge of the solar system. despite doing everything possible to use as little power as necessary, at the request of astronomer carl sagan, nasa rotated the satellite's camera to look back at where it had come. the sun flares much of the image, but in all of the grainy noise of that black photograph, taking up 0.12 pixel, is a pale blue dot.

reflecting on what that pale blue dot meant, sagan wrote,
we succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. that's here. that's home. that's us. on it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. the aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every 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 in 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 the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. 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. it is up to us. it's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and i might add, a character-building experience. to my mind, 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 and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
pale blue dot: a vision of the human future in space, p.6

and he's right. so much of what we worry about and stress over each day--getting a 74 instead of a 94 on a test, dishes left in the sink, not getting the job we applied for--are easy to see how trivial they are when we realize that all we're fighting for is a moment of minor superiority on that tiny little dot. viewed from way out there, we are nothing.

but we are not worthless.
even though we live on a pale blue dot, even though we are only tiny points on that tiny dot, we are valued. God knows us by name. He knows us personally and closely. He knows what got us excited yesterday and what hurt our feelings today and what we hope for tomorrow. we matter to Him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love this!

Happy Easter, Jeff