Monday, October 17, 2011

A Mote Of Dust

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.

— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

It’s estimated that there are between 200 to 400 hundred billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 billion galaxies in the the universe. It’s helpful to keep this perspective in mind, provided you can do so without sinking into psychotic despair. I’ve always taken comfort in our insignificance. I find it humorous and liberating. At any rate, it helps my self-esteem: No matter how ridiculous we appear to be, odds are there is another species somewhere behaving just as badly. What a relief!

Someplace out in the Crab Nebula, there might be another globular mass of carbon and hydrogen pushing its own 9-9-9 plan, or exhorting its followers to go and slaughter another bunch of similarly composed masses of hydrogen and carbon, or indulging in some of the other violent buffooneries that have reached their apotheosis here on planet earth. Whatever. It’s probably safe to say that we are not alone. Whew.

1 comment:

writenow said...

I love your stuff. Just got here via the Friedman nonsense. And I'm staying.