Thursday, March 27
The Folly of Human Conceits
**Warning: I'm in a reflective mood at the moment, so proceed to read this posting at your own risk.**
Lately I've been absolutely hooked on a History Channel series called "The Universe." As the title suggests, it's about the universe. I love this program--it seems like the more I learn about space, time, and the universe, the more I feel as if I know nothing and yet still I want to know more. My burgeoning interest in space has been helped along in the past year or so by the three visits I've made to the Griffith Observatory here in L.A. Perched atop the Hollywood hills very close to the famous HOLLYWOOD sign, the Griffith is a space museum and a planetarium in one and it's one of my favorite places in the city. Aside from those explorations, I've also checked out some astronomy websites, like this one which publishes images from the Hubble telescope. In my cyber-wanderings, I also came across an image and a quote by Carl Sagan that is wonderfully thought provoking, simple, and profound all at once.
This image was taken by the Voyager spacecraft as it exited our solar system for the last time. The dot you see in the photo (which has been circled to help your eye find it) is a view of Earth from about 6.4 billion kilometers away. Sagan notes that this dot, obscured in a beam of scattered sunlight, is our home:
“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. ”
So friends, let's deal more kindly with one another, and let's not forget to preserve and cherish our pale blue dot. It's all we've got.