Pale Blue Dot

Bloganuary Day 22: Time for some perspective

What is your favourite quote and why?

Quotes: don’t you love ’em? So much easier than having an original thought, some people say. Personally, I think that’s a rather harsh judgement: if someone else has expressed it in a better way than you could come up with, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with acknowledging the fact and giving credit where it’s due.

But how are we to choose one single bon mot? That task is effectively impossible. I could marshal a whole army of telling quotations from Shakespeare illustrating the human condition. I could probably come up with almost as many penned by Bob Dylan. They could all be described as favourites, but none of them would be ‘the’ favourite. To choose only one would be invidious at best.

So I have come up with something a little off the beaten track, although it is still quite a widely known observation, and that is the astronomer Carl Sagan’s response to this iconic image, captured in 1990 by the Voyager spacecraft looking back to Earth from a distance of 3.8 billion miles.

That ‘mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam’ inspired Sagan to write this in his book ‘Pale Blue Dot’:

“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.

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.”

Sometimes it’s important to maintain a sense of perspective.

One thought on “Pale Blue Dot

  1. Pingback: In the gutter | the only deadhead in the hameau

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