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A Pale Blue Dot

Updated on June 9, 2011
A pale blue dot. Carl Sagan's achingly beautiful meditation on this photograph of Voyager's last glimpse of home before permanently leaving our solar system speaks of the fragility of the planet we all share.
A pale blue dot. Carl Sagan's achingly beautiful meditation on this photograph of Voyager's last glimpse of home before permanently leaving our solar system speaks of the fragility of the planet we all share.

A Mote of Dust Suspended in a Sunbeam

"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."

-Carl Sagan, May 11, 1996

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    • profile image

      EnglishM 

      8 years ago

      You write with a very enjoyable style, ilmdamaily. Astronomers tell us that there is a pale blue dot inside every solar system; and there are millions of solar systems in a galaxy. And as if that wasn't enough, they tell us that there are millions of galaxies. It's barely comprehendable. You're right, individually we can at least deal more kindly with one another, but as for preserving and cherishing the pale blue dot, I can't see humankind ever coming together on that... can you?

    • Leafy Den profile image

      Leafy Den 

      8 years ago from the heart

      One of my favorite authors! Thank you for posting this and for this humbling reminder of just where we sit in this great big unexplained vastness of space.

      Where we come from, we don't know. Where we are going, impossible to tell. And, for what purpose? I can only reason that it is possibly just to enjoy the experience. :-)

    • tantrum profile image

      tantrum 

      8 years ago from Tropic of Capricorn

      Sometimes I wonder if this Universe is not in the middle of a 'mirror' trick.

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