Friday, September 19, 2014

Here is a large dose of perspective

    From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any 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.
    —Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, 1997 reprint, pp. xv–xvi
Sagan as far as I am concerned was a man who was not before his time, but the message seems to have been lost.  In CB slang he was coming in 10-1, receiving poorly.  Reread that excerpt from Sagan again.  Read it slowly, allow the message to settle in.  Then think, this phrase was first uttered in some way slightly more than twenty years ago, and how sad it is that in these past twenty or so years how little we have changed.  Everything that we were, everything that we are, and everything we are to become is tied directly to this little "mote of sand" in the universe.  It is our home, and we should respect our home, we should take care of it like we do all our possessions, because there is no great hope that will arrive to save us from ourselves.  Sure, I do believe that there is a strong likelihood of intelligent life outside of this world, but lets face it, they have more important things to do than run around and square away the wayward children of the universe.

Sure we can likely migrate to Mars, but if we had to set out now how many of us would be permitted to make that trip?  With our current level of technology how many of us would make it to see a sunrise on that foreign neighbor?  We are so hung up on making more, producing more for less, taking all that we can, we have becoming King Midas in our own ways, more concerned about our personal wealth, and what we have, that we have become arrogant.  We are all the fools on the stage of this planet, the court jesters of the universe as it stands.

Making matters worse, we cannot get over our own beliefs to do what is best for others.  We are all right, always.  If you hear our political leaders talk, their side has the right solution to the wrong problems.  If you listen to many of the conservatives and libertarians talk, if global climate change has you down, never fear its not real. Forget the fact that we are all stuck on a ship, the NCC-0001 named the USS Planet Earth, and when she becomes damaged beyond repair, its not like we can transfer to another and decommission her, fix her right up.  We cannot abandon ship, we are all stuck like the passengers of the RMS Titanic. 

Really, we are all just slightly more intelligent but very stupid apes.  We are too hung up on being right, acquiring more money and wealth, preserving our ideologies, and sewing our eyes shut.  If we cannot take care of our own, if we cannot find a way to preserve and acquire the right things, there will be nothing left to hand to future generations. We kill in the name of God, we kill those that seek our commodities, we kill those that are different than us, we tend to turn the rivers and land red with blood over ideals that have no business being fought over, and we do it all so we can acquire more.