Sunday, March 18, 2012

Watch some TED talks and see what happens

We watched three different TED lectures on the theme of space the other night, the first of which closed with a reading of the following quote.  I believe this is where we need to be taken, regularly, to acquire and, it is hoped, maintain some sense of proportion, while recommitting to an immeasurable sense of wonder.

In his book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, the astronomer Carl Sagan related his thoughts on a deeper meaning of the photograph:
We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every 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 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 the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. 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. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, 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 and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

14 comments:

Claire Beynon said...

Dear Marylinn

I so love these words. . . thank you for posting them here.

Lynn Margulis - Carl Sagan's first wife, and mother of his son, Dorion - wrote

“…So, what is life? Life is evolutionary exuberance; it is what happens when expanding populations of sensing, active organisms knock up against each other and work things out…

… When our lives touch those of different kingdoms – flowering and fruiting plants, recycling and sometimes hallucinogenic fungi, livestock and pet animals, healthful and weather-changing microbes – we most feel what it means to be alive. Survival seems always to require more networking, more interaction with members of other species, which integrates us further into global physiology…”

If, as Margulis posits, it is ‘teamwork that enabled life to spread on Earth’ then surely it must follow that teamwork is what is required to sustain it…

Ah, our pale blue dot. Robust. Fragile. Our place and time with it, a daily miracle.

L, C xo
(PS. I'm back home - will respond to your e- soon.)

Robert the Skeptic said...

I so miss Carl Sagan, he has left a void that has never been adequately filled by anyone else since.

And yet here in the nightly news is a man who would put himself up as the potential leader of the most powerful and free country in the world; his shining gauntlet of leadership: that he would prevent men from looking at pictures of naked women, if he is elected.

The Blue Dot and the universe doesn't care.

T. Clear said...

Marilynn, I just last week listened to a clip of Carl Sagan reading this, and was immeasurably moved.

The startling frequency of synchronicity with fellow bloggers takes my breath away. Here we are, spread out all over the surface of the planet, yet linked by energies we'd be hard pressed to explain.

Further evidence of a collective consciousness, which makes that "pale blue dot" at the same time both less and more significant.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Claire - Since hearing them anew, I cannot stop using Sagan's words as a prism through which I examine each tale or event I encounter. Teamwork, or at the very least the absence of needless opposition, seems essential to sustaining a life we (certainly I) would prefer.

At my last real job, exceedingly corporate, one of the executives congratulated me on a promotion, saying, "Now you'll have your own fiefdom." There and then it seemed to matter. We are too easily distracted from the reality of being portions and reflections of the infinite. A daily miracle indeed. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Robert - Definitely one who possessed a unique vision, which is why we continue to seek guidance through his words, his thoughts. Until our lives, as Claire mentions, are about our similarities, about working together, all we succeed in doing is further unraveling our magnificent flying carpet. Thank you for commenting.

Marylinn Kelly said...

T. - The frequency with which synchronicity looms tells me we are, indeed, onto something. Last week for me it was all things space, cosmic, galactic. It began with reports from my brother who monitors solar flares, and moved on through TED, Carl Sagan and all the paths along which I've been led since then. I believe when we pay attention, we find that all things are connected; we are able to acknowledge being part of a greater consciousness, making, as you said, our pale blue dot both more and less significant. xo

Laoch of Chicago said...

Nifty, thanks for posting this.

Antares Cryptos said...

Joining in the synchronicity of needing the words of someone who eloquently described the marvels of the universe and the pale blue dot we inhabit.

A must buy: Field notes on science and nature. There was supposed to be a post attached to it, but encountered the limits of time.;)

Sorry I have been absent of late.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Laoch - You're welcome. The meaning of this seems to come up in some context every day. How can it be that we need continual reminders to be decent to one another?

Marylinn Kelly said...

Antares - Thank you for pointing me toward "Field Notes on Science and Nature." What a fine reference to have on hand. It seems the synchronous occurs more and more frequently. I like when we are elbowed to notice our similarities. And I know you are there in the ether, glad to see you here.

Kass said...

It's good to remember what a little dot I am on another little dot.

Our dots here on our blogs may seem insignificant, but human consciousness is a vast and powerful creator.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kass - Yes, a very powerful creator and we may never know fully the importance of our connections to each other. That they are not only important but essential I am willing to take on faith. xo

molly said...

i knew i loved that carl...

Marylinn Kelly said...

Molly - As Robert said, no one seems to have stepped forward to fill the space he left vacant. His words will likely resonate for us as long as we are here.