Most of us are familliar with the “Pale Blue Dot” image taken by the Voyager-I spacecraft in 1990.  From a distance of six-billion kilometers our earth takes up a little more than one-tenth of one pixel.

The late astronomer Carl Sagan, at whose suggestion this image was captured wrote the following a few years later.  In light of current world events and the dialog happening here in the United States over refugees, immigration and the ageless and timeless battles over religion it would do us well to ponder these words again.

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.”  – Carl Sagan (1934-1996)

Considered from a different perspective, this image is a closeup . . .  a “selfie” taken with a really long stick.  The vantage of Voyager’s cameras at the point where this picture was taken is at the edge of the Kuiper belt which lies at the outer reaches of our solar system.  Our solar system in turn is but a tiny and insignificant fuzzball in the infinite vastness of the universe, the observable portion of which is a sphere some 552 sextillion miles in diameter.

Who is my neighbor?

In reality, every person on this tiny spec of dust we inhabit is really, really close.

Perhaps we should all start acting as if we understand this.


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