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Pale Blue Dot

--by Carl Sagan (Jan 25, 2010)
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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


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12 Previous Reflections:

 
On Jul 25, 2014 Shirley wrote:

 Thank you for the best day yesterday: great bike ride; loved seeing Kelly; meeting Brian - very nice guy; and spending time with you. Hope you have a good time up north.  I know you are stressed and upset at times. Whenever someone upsets me, John asks me why I am letting them rent precious space in my brain for free.  Dad told me that the reason he loved astronomy was because it put everything in perspective. I did not find this quote (it comes with a video of earth that is seen as just a speck in the big black universe) until after Dad passed away but, after I read it, I understood better what he meant. I keep it posted above my desk at work to remind me that, other than issues that involve life and death or serious threats to someone's well being, there is not much in this world that is worth getting upset or stressed out over.  Hope you have a great time in Georgian Bay! Xxxooo          See full.

 Thank you for the best day yesterday: great bike ride; loved seeing Kelly; meeting Brian - very nice guy; and spending time with you. Hope you have a good time up north. 

I know you are stressed and upset at times. Whenever someone upsets me, John asks me why I am letting them rent precious space in my brain for free.
 Dad told me that the reason he loved astronomy was because it put everything in perspective. I did not find this quote (it comes with a video of earth that is seen as just a speck in the big black universe) until after Dad passed away but, after I read it, I understood better what he meant. I keep it posted above my desk at work to remind me that, other than issues that involve life and death or serious threats to someone's well being, there is not much in this world that is worth getting upset or stressed out over. 
Hope you have a great time in Georgian Bay! Xxxooo
 
 
 
 

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On May 8, 2012 Rebecca Chamberlain wrote:
 The moral and ethical questions of how we treat others, and the earth's diverse creatures and systems--human and ecological--are big ones, in an age where many exploit others and the planet for symbols of greed and profit. In the world we've created, the winners of money and fame are the losers, pinning their sense of well being on having triumphed over, instead of working with and within and supporting the ecological and human systems of shared value and collective well-being.  We need to remake our system of values, so we can live in a world that works for all. Carl Sagan was right, we are at a moral juncture in our understanding, and the earth is at stake. Can we love the earth and each other enough to live from a higher moral principle?

On May 8, 2012 Tom LaForge wrote:
Lately, I've been preceding my speeches with a short video of Carl Sagan reading this message. Afterwards, my messages of sustainably and Conscious Capitalism get across much more easily. To be heard, we must first eliminate the old us-vs-them war  mentality that frames the thinking of most business leaders. Lifting one's gaze lifts one's vision.

On Mar 10, 2011 madhur wrote:

 This reading and reflections contain so much value and open a whole new world of thoughts and understanding our reactions to me. I am really thankful to each of you for sharing the video , your thoughts and helping other readers learn so much.

 



On Feb 1, 2010 Pancho wrote:

My family calls me Pancho and I'd like you to know that I love you all... Last Wednesday was a ONE-derful night to stress that "we are all in this together", no matter distance or time. As usual, the Berkeley posse of satyagrahis was ready to carpool to Santa Clara but this time there were not enough cars to carry all the crew (8 of us), so Chris, Yi-An and I joyously volunteered to give away our spots (so that you know, sister Yi-An has been the first one to RSVP -before the weekly passage is sent!- for the last month!). We've been to so many Wednesdays that we know how powerful is for a "first timer" or for some of us who are re-joining the spiritual companionship of the Charity Focus family. Among the people who joined the adventure of magic Wednesdays for the first time, was brother Fab (who had a visible weapon of love: a guitar!). [I just heard the beautiful song he played at the Kindness Temple that night!]. So, improvisation was the name of the evenin  See full.

My family calls me Pancho and I'd like you to know that I love you all...

Last Wednesday was a ONE-derful night to stress that "we are all in this together", no matter distance or time.

As usual,
the Berkeley posse of satyagrahis was ready to carpool to Santa Clara but this time there were not enough cars to carry all the crew (8 of us), so Chris, Yi-An and I joyously volunteered to give away our spots (so that you know, sister Yi-An has been the first one to RSVP -before the weekly passage is sent!- for the last month!). We've been to so many Wednesdays that we know how powerful is for a "first timer" or for some of us who are re-joining the spiritual companionship of the Charity Focus family. Among the people who joined the adventure of magic Wednesdays for the first time, was brother Fab (who had a visible weapon of love: a guitar!). [I just heard the beautiful song he played at the Kindness Temple that night!]. So, improvisation was the name of the evening and the three of us decided to have a Wednesdays' night meditation/dinner in Berkeley. Yi-An and Chris bought a few veggies, which later became part of a delicious curry, rice and beans, together with a salad with home grown sprouts and mushrooms from Tilden park (kind of a swadeshi salad). We did the dinner prep and sat in receptive silence at Chris' room. [He showed me the incredible site of Rev. Heng Sure where you can set a virtual bell: a meditation timer!]

After meditation, we played Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot" and it felt as if I was with all of you in Santa Clara, like if those 55 miles didn't exist. Thanks to the magic of the electron land and the prodigious skills of brother Somik, I could read some of your insights and lovely reflections. In a virtual and real circle, and honoring what might be the continuity of Planetary Wednesdays, these are some of the thoughts/feelings that flowed through me:

1. Star Stuff.
2. New Renaissance of Humanity.
3. Astronomical Gratitude.


1. Star Stuff.
I remember when I was a child the attention and enthusiasm my dad had for the Carl Sagan's TV series: Cosmos. As a 5 year old, I was quite frustrated when the long Carl monologues started because I couldn't read the subtitles, and my English didn't exist at all, so it just didn't appeal to me. However, what I still remember is the excitement of my dad afterwards: he explained to me, in Spanish, the beauty and magic of the Cosmos is his own words. Those were the seeds of critical thinking, those were the seeds of awe and wonder that shaped my profound interest for Astrobiology (the study of life as we know it -and as we don't know it!-, how it originated, how it has evolved and how it has been distributed in the Universe). In other words, thanks to (well-used)technology and the spiritual translation of people like my dad, Carl Sagan's wisdom could travel, almost in real time, to Mexico, Latin America and to the entire Planet, changing the lives of millions of people like me. It always intrigued me how it was that we are made of star stuff... that meant that you, and I and everybody's ancestors "came from stars". This is one of the most profound realizations humans have ever done: the oxygen that we breathe, the calcium in our bones, the carbon in our skin, the water in our cells, the iron in our blood all come from star stuff...


2. New Renaissance of Humanity.
I remember it was in one of my first Wednesdays when I shared my perspective about the New Renaissance of Humanity. That day, I gave to the Mehta family an Earth Flag that symbolizes the citizenship of the World (not that they need any recognition, but is a tradition I'm used to). So, here it is again:

In the middle of the awe and wonder of the Cosmos it is easy, for me, to make the connection that we all are luminous beings. We all have the potential to shine like a star. We are all in this together, radiating together. We live in an organic spaceship, our home, and we must take care of it. How do we share this oneness perspective with the entire Earth Community? Well, it's happening in front of our eyes. These are indeed exiting times!

Just 15 years ago we discovered, as species, the first extrasolar planet, the first planet outside the Solar System. This discovery marked the start of a new age in the study of the origin of life, because finding worlds around other stars is giving context to the Solar System, and also the existence of our home: the Earth and its magnificent biodiversity. Currently, we have found close to 400 exoplanets! and the list of planets outside the Solar System keeps increasing with each month. However, the majority of these extrasolar planets are “gas giants”: a few are like Uranus or Neptune; the grand majority are like Saturn or Jupiter or even bigger. It is very likely that all these places would be impossible to be inhabit for what we today call “living organisms”. We are still looking for the first Earth-like planet orbiting another sun.

We are getting closer. On April 2007, human knowledge made another jump: we discovered the first Super Earth ⎯a terrestrial planet approximately 4 times the mass of the Earth⎯ and it wasn’t around a Sun-like star, rather it was found orbiting a red dwarf star (75 out of 100 stars in our Galaxy are red dwarfs!). When we humans start to take into account the great diversity of the Cosmos, for example, when we look for planets not only around stars like the Sun but around all stars ⎯of course, including the most numerous⎯ we are rewarded. We are getting even closer! This year, 2010, NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope
discovered its first five exoplanets! This mission, looking at 100,000 stars at the same time, is the first one that will be able to detect Earth-size planets as the exo-earths eclipse the light of the hosting start.
 
The Universe tells us again and again that to cling to the anthropocentric principle is useless. When Galileo discovered the fascinating worlds of Callisto, Ganymede, Europa and Io orbiting Jupiter, the perspective of Humanity changed forever. In the West, this discovery of the Galilean moons proved that the Earth and humans were not the center of the Universe—the insight and reasoning of Copernicus were correct—it called into question the oppressive-obscurantist system of the Inquisition and thus opened the road to the Renaissance. Likewise, today we are living in through the New Renaissance of Humanity. We are building a catalogue of Earth-like planets and Super Earths and we human beings start to understand that it does not matter what country, religion or sexual orientation you are but what matters is being a responsible citizen of the World. We are beginning to demonstrate that the Earth is but one country and all the living beings its citizens.

The message is still very clear, as Gandhi said: “The Earth has enough to satisfy everyone’s needs but not everyone’s greed.” There are enough resources for everyone but to cling to neoliberal policies, to the oppressive-imperial system, to the totalitarianism of corporate capitalism is useless. That's why this is the New Renaissance of Humanity, where we honor diversity at the surface level, and unity at the heart level.

3. Astronomical Gratitude.
We are insignificant and yet so special, so small and yet so giant. We are a way of the Universe to know itself. We are the Universe that took conscience of itself. Yes we are a spec of a spec, and our lives are just a blink of an eye in the Cosmic perspective. At the same time, we have the capability to be asking this mind/heart blowing questions. There is little difference genetically speaking among the rest of animal kingdom and us; it is more and more known that orangutans have feelings, psychological problems, responsibilities as a community members, they take care of each other, they are even nonviolent! We are not that special after all, and yet, we have the capability, moment to moment, breath after breath, to stop the what is causing suffering in others, to be more kind with one another. We are capable to imagine this kindness and then to practice it.

I think/feel that if all humans will be able to experience such a ONE-derful gatherings as Wednesdays, we will be in our way to quickly eradicate the imaginary lines humans draw in the dirt, those lines that will never show up in a picture of our pale blue pearl. I feel an astronomical gratitude for you all who have been feeding me in so many ways, physically and more importantly, spiritually. I'm also infinitely grateful that we are able to share the Wednesday's treasure with more and more people. If I have to offer "my spot" every Wednesday to a new sibling to keep Planetizing the Movement of the Kindness (R)evolution one heart at a time, one star at a time, let it be!
It would be my pleasure!

May billions and billions become compassionate, courageous and wise.
Pancho

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On Jan 28, 2010 Somik wrote:

This metaphor came with the image of zooming out to recognize the macrocosm we are in, and I felt it is a powerful way of thinking that can help us break our present attachments and go to a much loftier viewpoint.  On the same lines, is a corollary metaphor looking at the opposite end of the spectrum, the microcosm. If we look at our bodies, composed of millions of cells, we can start to imagine the lives of our cells. They are born, do intensely work for some time and then die. What if think of our little cells as people. Well, there's the toe people, and then there's the foot people. What if the toe people held grudges against the foot people, thinking, "you aren't giving us enough resources. There's inequity here, .." And the foot people held similar grudges against the toe people.  I find myself grinning at this idea, simply because I cannot fathom the notion of toe people and foot people. There's just me - the whole organism to which the toe and the feet are  See full.

This metaphor came with the image of zooming out to recognize the macrocosm we are in, and I felt it is a powerful way of thinking that can help us break our present attachments and go to a much loftier viewpoint. 

On the same lines, is a corollary metaphor looking at the opposite end of the spectrum, the microcosm. If we look at our bodies, composed of millions of cells, we can start to imagine the lives of our cells. They are born, do intensely work for some time and then die. What if think of our little cells as people. Well, there's the toe people, and then there's the foot people. What if the toe people held grudges against the foot people, thinking, "you aren't giving us enough resources. There's inequity here, .." And the foot people held similar grudges against the toe people. 

I find myself grinning at this idea, simply because I cannot fathom the notion of toe people and foot people. There's just me - the whole organism to which the toe and the feet are connected. I understand how my unity works at the cellular level. Although the toe and foot have different functions and look different, they are part of the same organism. Since my awareness is at the level of the organism, I recognize the underlying unity immediately.  

Can we bring the awareness that lies in the microcosm up to the level of the macrocosm? When we are in toe-consciousness, we cannot see the organism that we're connected to. But, what if could connect to that organism of which we are a part? What if we were aware that although we look and think differently, we make up a much bigger whole, one that we simply cannot understand at the level of toe-consciousness? How would our lives be if we acted with that awareness?

At another level, Sagan's metaphor drives our ego into insignificance. The toe metaphor points drives home the significance of each part. Significance and insignificance are two sides of the same coin, and not contradictory ideas. To the larger being, hair falling and growing again is not a big deal. To the hair, it is birth, trauma and death. What if we take the awareness of the larger being with the biggest perspective possible and then examine the littlest of things. What would that vision be? 

Finally a story. On Tuesday, everything went contrary to my expectations. I had a full busy day planned with lots of work to be done. I started out my day with an email from a colleague who was worried about his workload getting bigger. My initial reaction was defensive - I have a bigger workload, and I could think of many reasons why things had to be better for me. Then I paused, and reflected, and found a deeper intention to be of service, and responded by acknowledging both the intention to serve and justifying the present. That didn't feel entirely wholesome. I was reflecting on everything and suddenly realized that I'd made everything in my life so important that other people's problems were not in my circle of concern anymore. It was I who was suffering as a result. Hmm.. I met my colleague and made clear that it wasn't about fairness of work distribution, it was about stress. If anything caused stress for him, I wanted to help in whatever way I could. A big burden lifted off from my heart.

In a later meeting with my professor, who I'd been trying to get a hold off for a while, our meeting went over my "budgeted" time. Instead of being delighted, the old habit-pattern kicked in causing stress. I had to be somewhere else, and I didn't have the phone number of the person I was going to meet. Then, I decided to ditch it - the universe was too vast, and my problems were too small - I gave up, and decided to enjoy the presence and time of my professor, and we had a magical meeting. I went late to the other meeting (which proceeded just fine without me), and was still able to carry out the role I had promised to perform.

One would think that this was enough to awaken me, but then I had a dinner engagement, and my friends were late. Again, my first thought was.. "Oh no, I have so much work to do, I should have timed this engagement and made it clear,..." The second thought, as I walked out into the Oval, was "What am I doing? This is so insignificant. Yes, I have a ton of things to do, and no, I am not going to do any of it right now." As I saw the clear sky, Sagan's metaphor opened up. A speck of dust; no, a fraction of a speck of dust. That's what we are. And yet, the tiniest of my problem becomes my world. No way. Not happening. Needless to say, the dinner was fantastic, I had a great time, and the next day, I finished what I thought were insurmountable tasks. 

As we went around the group, Viral shared the notion of innercosm, akin to microcosm. He summarized the gist very beautifully as one of gaining a bigger perspective. And, there is ALWAYS a bigger perspective.

Nipun talked about the fourth guy who went to the moon, Edgar Mitchell, and found himself looking at the earth and going into a moment of connection with all of life. He realized how artificial the borders are that we have created, because from space, there are none. The inspiration led to his found of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), which conducts research in areas that mainstream science has found unproductive :).

Ripa expanded the metaphor by using death as a tool to enlarge perspective. On our deathbed, how would we look back at our life? Can we bring that awareness and live each moment that way? Steve Jobs has an inspiring commencement speech on these lines (see the part about death).

Dinesh uncle wondered what was wrong with his generation that they could not take any of the risks the younger one was taking to follow their heart. I had a big smile when I heard that, and Pavi and Guri both reflected on that very powerfully. Pavi said that we stand on the shoulders of the previous generation - it is thanks to them that we can go further. Guri also pointed out that it is not the case that our generation is all awakened and aware. We have created a bubble around our little community, so it is not correct to generalize. Building on what both said, I feel that we are part of the same organism. If children succeed, then the organism succeeds, and parents are part of that organism. That generalizes to all people, all life. 

Nipun also shared this incredible story about a woman who has spent her life serving others. She had this experience where she felt she was looking at the world, and it was all dark, and when she turned around, she saw bright light, which was creating lots of lit-up spots on the world. She felt that acts of service and genuine compassion are little bright dots. Nipun felt the Wednesday is like that - maybe insignificant in the larger scheme of things, but a little bright dot. To build on this, I feel that the dark and the bright dots are part of the same organism, so in order not to let the dark dots overwhelm us, we have to glow even brighter.

Pavi also noted that it was ironical that although our insignificance should be depressing us, in our circle, we felt pretty good about it :).

We had an incredible guitar performance at the end by a Canadian friend, which was about taking the dive and spreading our wings to fly. 

On that note, may we all fly to follow our hearts!

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On Jan 27, 2010 matt wilkie wrote:

supun, thanks for sharing the yuotube video. It is indeed good to hear it in Carl's own voice. After watching that I was inspired to recreate one with visuals which more closely reflected the actual word. Then of course I discovered someone else had already thought of that, and likely did a better job than I could have: )

ijourney, thanks for raising this to our attention,and adding the info about where that wonderful blue dot image came from.

 



On Jan 27, 2010 Ramanand Kowta wrote:

NAMASTE ! - is the essence of Indian Horpitality. It means NA -not  + MAMAHA - me + TE- you. i.e the Host is saying ' not me, but you ' to the Guest ! Only by  elevating the guest and by humbling himself,can the Host truly extend a warm hand of hospitality and thus truly ' serve ' the guest. Service alone is the way ! When Man decides to be a ' humble servant ' of Nature, there is ' abundance -  plenty for all !  BUT, MAN, the most intelligent ( ? ? ) creation, decided to ' conquer, exploit, Master Nature, it led to greed, competition and scarcity - poverty amidst plenty ! We blatantly violated the ( inviolable) Laws of Nature of - Give and Recieve. Instead he TOOK first and then did not GIVE with 'awareness' ! - Cause and Effect -as you Sow ,so you Reap ! So, he 'linearised ' the Cyclic processes of( water, food/biomass etc...) and created the problems of pollution - garbage and sewage. RE- CYCLING , by Returning the WASTES to the Source will alone ensur  See full.

NAMASTE ! - is the essence of Indian Horpitality. It means NA -not  + MAMAHA - me + TE- you. i.e the Host is saying ' not me, but you ' to the Guest ! Only by  elevating the guest and by humbling himself,can the Host truly extend a warm hand of hospitality and thus truly ' serve ' the guest. Service alone is the way ! When Man decides to be a ' humble servant ' of Nature, there is ' abundance -  plenty for all ! 

BUT, MAN, the most intelligent ( ? ? ) creation, decided to ' conquer, exploit, Master Nature, it led to greed, competition and scarcity - poverty amidst plenty !

We blatantly violated the ( inviolable) Laws of Nature of

- Give and Recieve. Instead he TOOK first and then did not GIVE with 'awareness' !

- Cause and Effect -as you Sow ,so you Reap !

So, he 'linearised ' the Cyclic processes of( water, food/biomass etc...) and created the problems of pollution - garbage and sewage.

RE- CYCLING , by Returning the WASTES to the Source will alone ensure ' Sustainable Living' for all on this Earth !

Why do we want to ' screw up ' another planet ?

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On Jan 26, 2010 supun wrote:

Liz did a good job of doing the reading.

Just in case people wanted to here Carl Sagan's delivery here is a youtube clip:

it's quite great set with some dreamy music on that clip. Does anyone know where the audio clip comes from?



On Jan 26, 2010 supun wrote:

this is one of my favorite audio excepts. Carl Sagan's voice is always filled with awe and the want of understanding in all of his documentries. Hearing him talk about the world from this perspective helped me not only appreciate the planet, people/other living beings, and nature but also the time that we have been alive and the time we are alive right now. I have the youtube clip bookmarked and I always come back and take a listen whenever my head is somewhere else. "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  See full.

this is one of my favorite audio excepts. Carl Sagan's voice is always filled with awe and the want of understanding in all of his documentries. Hearing him talk about the world from this perspective helped me not only appreciate the planet, people/other living beings, and nature but also the time that we have been alive and the time we are alive right now.

I have the youtube clip bookmarked and I always come back and take a listen whenever my head is somewhere else.
"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."

is one of my favorite sentances in all of little english oratory history that I know.

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On Jan 26, 2010 Karlyn wrote:

Yes.. sure puts things back into perspective.  It's good to be reminded once in a while. Great article.



On Jan 18, 2010 iJourney Editors wrote:

This excerpt from A Pale Blue Dot was inspired by an image taken, at Sagan's suggestion, by Voyager 1 on February 14, 1990. As the spacecraft left our planetary neighborhood for the fringes of the solar system, engineers turned it around for one last look at its home planet. Voyager 1 was about 6.4 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) away, and approximately 32 degrees above the ecliptic plane, when it captured this portrait of our world. Caught in the center of scattered light rays (a result of taking the picture so close to the Sun), Earth appears as a tiny point of light, a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size.