A few years ago I was watching a talk entitled “Indescribable” by Louie Giglio, about the glory of God through an image-rich journey through the cosmos, allowing us to peer into God’s universe to discover the amazing magnitude of His greatness. Okay, so I copied parts of the previous sentence from the back of the DVD. However, as a Christian scientist, I did find it amazingly uplifting to see how wonderful the universe is through a Christian perspective. Within the talk, Giglio shared this famous picture of the Pale Blue Dot - a photograph of planet Earth taken in 1990 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft from the edge of our solar system, a record distance of about six billion kilometers from Earth:
(Photo credit: NASA JP)
Can you see us? You can’t possibly miss it. :)
Now, just a few days ago NASA unveiled new pictures by the agency’s Cassini spacecraft at Saturn, which once again shows Earth as a tiny pinprick of light amid the haunting rings and glowing sphere of Saturn.
(Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)
This time, you really can’t miss it because there’s an arrow pointing to where we are. And no, giant white arrows do NOT float freely in space…not that I know of anyway. Gotta look it up in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Will update this space once I actually find the guide.
Now, I’m not going to write a long essay about these two pictures because I’m pretty sure you can find more info via Google and Wikipedia, my two best friends. It’s just that seeing the new picture of Earth reminds me of this passage written by Carl Sagan in his book, “Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space”:
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.
The first paragraph pretty much sums up what I felt upon seeing the dot which is us. All our worldly troubles suddenly seem so small and petty. We are but a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam. To use a pretty hipster phrase, all our “first world problems” dim in comparison to the much larger scale that is the universe. Can’t get McDonald’s Happy Meal Minions? It’s not the end of the world. Can’t agree on who gets the rights to the world “Allah”? God ain’t gonna smite you down with a bolt of lightning (at least it hasn’t happened yet). So you’re fat? Yeah, Tee Lin Say is a disgusting bully, but then again, you won’t die from a healthier diet and more exercise. SwanQueen isn’t canon? Go live it through the volumes of fanfiction available on the Internet. I can go on to more serious problems in the world today, but I won’t as it would be in bad taste. What I mean to say in this short break from writing my seemingly never-ending thesis is that there’s more to life than the problems that’s right in front of us. The pale blue dot just proves it. We just need to step back, hopefully not millions of kilometers away, see the bigger picture, and make the most of what we have.