sea of stars

(Shelter Island night sky)

SpecialK pointed out how this photo is the inverse of the famous Pale Blue Dot photo that inspired Carl Sagan's book, philosophy, and reflection on mankind. By far the most eloquent cosmologist, scientist, writer, world observer in my humble opinion. His quest to understand who we are as human, how we feel, why we believe in the greater being that does not exist, and how all of this juxtapose against the known universe that is science helps people who aren't religious but have faith in the unreasonableness of being feel a tad more normal. Carl's observation is also referenced heavily when Al Gore put together his Inconvenient Truth campaign (book + movie). That we are all in this together and we should put forth effort in caring about each other and the planet because it is all that we have -- can't be any truer.

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From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it's different. Consider again 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."

 

It is interesting how two opposite vantage points (this photo vs the pale blue dot photo) evoke the same emotion. Replace pale blue dot with the sea of stars, and I can see Carl say the same exact thing. 

 

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From this vantage point, the stars might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it's different. Consider again all those dots. We're here, this is home, this is us. Here, 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 here – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam."

 

When I look up to the night sky (one of my favorite thing to do, oddly enough), it makes me feel small. It amazes me that I can see something so gigantic so far away in space with my eyes, and that there are so many gigantic things far far away. I'm on this little planet that hangs out in the universe. Even though I can see all the other planets and stars, for all intended purposes, I'll probably never get to even the closest one out there. It reminds me of my insignificance in the world. It makes me feel humble -- about who I am and where my place is. I occasionally think of times, places, and people around me who exude prince/princess-like virtue of self importance, and wonder if they ever look outside of themselves and see how everything that's so dramatically catastrophic at the moment amounts to nothing in the grand scheme of things. Minuscule. That anything that is everything, is also nothing at the same time. The inverse of anything can in fact be the same thing. Interesting.