Confession time . . .
Something a lot of readers don’t know about me–or, heck, even friends–is that I am an astronomy/astrophysics geek. I absolutely ADORE learning about space. It sometimes boggles my mind, leaving me at times grasping towards the boundaries of understanding and yet reveling in the sheer beauty of wondrous possibilities that our universe offers.
I blame my grandmother for this.
When I was younger, she and I would go outside at night and talk. Talk about the constellations and the legends associated with them. Talk about the stars, and how they were more than just pinpoints of light above us, how they were massive entities in which other celestial objects were trapped in orbits around. We talked about supernovas and black holes and comets and time and light and I used to always feel so small and so large all at once, hearing about these things. How I felt . . . almost spiritual about it, if that makes sense, because in the vast void of the universe, there I was, a piece of stardust.
When I went to college, I couldn’t imagine myself taking any other science requirements than astronomy. Not because there’s an urban legend that claims it’s easy, but because I was genuinely interested in the subject matter. But . . . here’s another confession: I am not mathematically minded whatsoever, much to my everlasting shame. So I struggled when my professors asked me to calculate masses and distances and expansion rates, and there were times I wondered if such torture upon my ego would drive a lifelong love away from me. It nearly did. But, resolute, I refused to let even math take away something so very profound and beautiful from me, so I dug my heels in, found myself some friends who were astronomers, and pushed through.
I discovered Carl Sagan at this time, and Stephen Hawking, and others whose books and ideas challenged me to step outside of my comfort boundaries and really think about what life is really all about. Even now, even today, I will listen to lectures and read works by people like Neil deGrasse Tyson often, because they speak to me. I was an archaeologist, a historian, and now I am a storyteller, but so much of me looks up and out and wonders about the future.
So, today, friends . . . if you’ll indulge me, I want to share something with you that has stuck with me for years. Something that I pull out every so often and either read or listen to, because I think my soul needs it. Maybe you already know what I’m talking about. Maybe this piece is in your canon, too. Maybe this will be your first time hearing the gorgeousness of Carl Sagan’s voice, and of his thoughts. Maybe what he says will resonate deep within you, too. Maybe you’ll hit repeat and subsequently feel the need to dig out more of his work. Maybe you’ll sit back and scratch your head and think, “That sh*t is boring.” Maybe it’ll inspire you to look into the night sky and begin the beautiful yet elusive quest to understand our place in the universe. Maybe you’ll look at the world around us differently.
Maybe you won’t even press play.
But maybe, just maybe, you will.
I really hope you will.
And now, here’s Carl Sagan’s beautiful musings on the Pale Blue Dot.
“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.”
|Earth, as seen by Voyager 1 in 1990.
“Oh 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 or 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 the 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 in 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.”
For more of Sagan’s thought-provoking musings, check out his book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. You can also check out The Carl Sagan Portal.
Carrying on Sagan’s work is Neil deGrasse Tyson. I cannot recommend reading/listening to him enough. Go HERE to learn more about him and his work.