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It’s far too easy to become enchanted with one’s own ideas, to become certain that one is right about everything, or more importantly to write or speak in ways that give others the impression that we have such attitudes.  That is what many of us find repelling in the media and politics, and try to struggle against.  It’s not easy to avoid being ensnared in the same trap.

Here’s a thought to serve as an initial shot over the bow of the good ship SS Arrogance:  We are essentially insignificant in this universe.   In fact, the only significance we have is that we assign to ourselves and to our experiences.  So it is entirely up to us what we think and what we do, how we think and how we conduct our lives.

Recently we stumbled on  “Pale Blue Dot and a Simple Prop,” offered by an Arizona State University professor, posted 2/13/2010.  [1]  The “Pale Blue Dot” has received more than a million visits since first posted a year and a half ago.

Whatever state of mind we may find ourselves in, whether it be spiritual rapture, guarded hope, or despair, or any variation thereof, it is helpful to remind ourselves of the humility, and sanity, we will need if we are to protect ourselves from the evil that mankind has created and protect our only home as best we can from the merciless onslaught of the human species:

The Pale Blue Dot

“It’s the twentieth anniversary of the famous “pale blue dot” photo – Earth as seen from Voyager 1 while on the edge of our solar system (approximately 3,762,136,324 miles from home). Sagan’s words are always worth remembering:

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 — 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.”


ARC, JMH — 8/22/11


[1] See also Reason to Believe.  Much thanks, Ibrahim Lahoud.

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2 Responses to Humility

  1. Thank you very much for the ping back. I have always been and still a fan of Carl Sagan. Visionaries like him are what this Pale Blue Dot needs right now. His words will always resonate in the ears, hearts and souls of people who see in Earth more than just a shelter.

  2. eric says:

    Just a thought that the “pale blue dot” must have been enhanced to be seen at all. Looking at the rest of the picture the colors are uniform. This picture actually makes Earth look more important than it is in terms of the Universe.

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