If you thought you were important you don’t know about the pale blue dot

I’ll start with a hat-tip to Rohit from ALearningADay.com for posting a part of this quote on his site, which led me to investigate the Pale Blue Dot (PBD).

As per Wikipedia, the PBD is a photograph of planet Earth taken in 1990 by the Voyager 1 space probe from about 6 billion kilometres as part of that day’s Family Portrait series of images of the Solar System on astronomer and author Carl Sagan’s request.

In the photograph, Earth’s apparent size is less than a pixel; the planet appears as a tiny dot against the vastness of space, among bands of sunlight reflected by the camera.

Wikipedia, Pale Blue Dot

Now, I don’t give a fig about astronomy but getting into the rabbit hole and re-reading Carl Sagan’s reflections on the Pale Blue Dot made me wonder about my significance on this planet. You, me, and the ones we love are essentially dust in the bigger scheme of things, aren’t we?

And yet, we whine and complain about the things that we don’t have or the things that we have in excess. We boast about our accomplishments or gripe about our failures. For what? How significant are our successes or losses in the vast expanse of this universe?

It’s something to ponder on. But I will let Carl Sagan guide the way for you:

Pale Blue Dot

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.

Carl Sagan

We’re not as important as we deem to be. So, calm down. There’s no rush. Let’s rejoice in the moments on this planet. We aren’t here forever.


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