Pale Blue Dot

Written on:January 20, 2017
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In an effort to add some context to a troubling day, theLeftAhead turns our thoughts to the incomparable Carl Sagan. In a public lecture at Cornell University in 1994, Sagan presented a photograph of planet Earth titled “Pale Blue Dot” that was taken on Valentine’s Day 1990 by the Voyager 1 space probe. He then delivered a brilliant, poetic speech about the photograph’s deeper meaning. For those of us who are absolutely horrified by the potential ramifications of Donald Trump assuming power today, Sagan’s commentary will provide context and should provide a bit of comfort. The late Daniel Watts, co-founder of theLeftAhead, was particularly fond of the world view presented by Sagan in his “Pale Blue Dot” speech. Brian (aka Daniel) was also very fond of President Obama’s leadership so it seems apropos to acknowledge our late colleague for providing the inspiration to turn to Sagan on a day like today. There is no question that coming years will be scary. We cannot relent for a second in our duty to resist the extreme agenda of President Trump and his Republican congress. Contemplating the energy that we must put forth in the coming years to provide the necessary resistance, in and of itself, is a scary proposition. If we can keep in mind the perspective that Carl Sagan lays out in his “Pale Blue Dot” speech, however, perhaps the fear will soften just enough for us to do the work of resistance a little bit more creatively and effectively. To this end, ladies and gentleman, Carl Sagan…



Pale Blue Dot, as transcribed by The Planetary Society:

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.

Written and orated by Carl Sagan


Video Source: carlsagandotcom on YouTube

Transcript Source: The Planetary Society

Featured Image Source: Celebrating Sagan

Headline Image Source: Pale Blue Dot on Pintrest

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