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18 January 2009

The Universe and the We

Stop whatever you are doing and look at the picture to the right. Do you see that small pale bluish dot near the center right of the photograph? Do you know what that little dot is? It is our home. Our Earth.

On St. Valentine’s day in 1990, as the space craft Voyager I approached the farthest reaches of our solar system on its way to interstellar space (about 6.4 billion kilometers or 4 billion miles), it turned for one last look at the place where it was created and then launched on its epic journey.

From 4 billion miles away, you can not see the continents, the seas, or the cities that are monuments to our creative insanity. You can not see the wars, the hate, the killing, the struggle just to survive. You can not see the love, the families, the helping hands extended to all who have need. From 4 billion miles away the lines that we have drawn are nonexistent. More important than all of these things we can not see from 4 billion miles away is what we can envision, if we look with open minds.

We are but a speck of matter barely discernible in the infinity that is our Universe, yet we can envision a time when all human beings will realize that we are far more than the here and now. Wealth means nothing. Possessions are nothing. The struggles for power and control are nothing. Alone, I am nothing. It is the WE that defines my place in this Universe. Without you, my fellow human beings, I am like that pale blue dot – alone in a vast expanse of darkness.

You are no more and no less important than I am. I have no greater value than you. We are all equally worthless; equally priceless. We are. We.

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. . . . There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.

Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

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