The Wisdom of Carl Sagan

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If you look carefully at the NASA photo below, you will see a little white dot. This minute speck is Earth seen from the Voyager 1 spacecraft as it exits the solar system, nearly 4 billion miles away. The photo was taken back in 1990.

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, Pale Blue Dot, 1994


5 responses to “The Wisdom of Carl Sagan

  1. That really is the kewlness. I adore Carl Sagan. The first time it occured to me just how small the Earth really was was when I head an astronomer refer to our planet as “observation deck Earth.”
    At the same time it boggles my mind to consider the odds against any one of us ever having come into being in the first place. Consider the big bang, the expansion of the universe, the postion of the Earth to the Sun, the right mix of chemical and all the various accidents of evolution that it took to ad d up to us having this exchange today. It boggles my mind.

  2. I love Carl! Where did you get the pic? I think I should get a copy of it and carry in my wallet. That way when assholes approach, I can just pull this out and explain it to them. Or, err, sometimes maybe to myself!

  3. Truly awesome!
    You know, strange as it might sound, though, my very first emotion was some moved tenderness… As if by being all so small and utterly defenseless we should realize the immensity of Her divine love and care for this sweet tiny speck which is the cradle of our life. I feel absolutely overwhelmed.

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