We are not currently meeting 'in-person'

We are not currently meeting 'in-person.'
I have made the difficult decision to stop holding our in-person Sunday night meetings - you can read more about this in my post here. I will be continuing to post weekly content here and in our newsletter. Do remember to sign up for the 'Metta Letter' newsletter below as I will be sending out weekly meditations there.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

(Meditation for Sunday 31st May)

Perspective on this Pale Blue Dot

The world seems very strange right now. We have the surreal experience of living in a pandemic, with many people suffering from the effects on their livelihoods and the health and well-being of their loved ones. On top of this we have deep unrest, with innocent people losing their lives for no other reason than their skin color and the subsequent anger and division that has grown out of that.

So it is not without some feelings of guilt that while all of this is going on I have been glued to the preparations for the NASA/SpaceX manned flight launch. I was a child of the Apollo era, and I have been fascinated with space and astronomy ever since. Even as I am writing this I have a small thumbnail running in the corner of my screen showing the current status of the launch. From a technological point of view this is a huge achievement, and the combination of the audacity of vision, the technological progress and the still-very-real danger makes this a fine example of some of the best of what it means to be human.

Yet it also comes with some of the worst. It is as always politicized, used to justify exceptionalism and even the visionary behind all this has appeared to show a shocking lack of compassion.

How do we square all of this with everything else that is going on? How do we gain perspective?

This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of another huge technological achievement: the taking of the photo at the head of this piece. Now known as the 'Pale Blue Dot' it may not seem that significant as you look at it for the first time.

It was taken by the Voyager 1 space probe after it had completed its main mission. It turned its camera towards the Earth and took this. The Earth is that tiny pixel. If you are over thirty, you are in this picture! If you are under thirty, your parents are. This is what you look like from four billion miles away.

Shortly after this was taken the great cosmologist Carl Sagan wrote the following on the significance of the photograph. His words are words of true beauty:

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.

I love the conclusion he draws from this perspective-changing experience: that it is 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."

We all agree that the world would be a better place if everyone treated each other with kindness, if everyone cherished this planet. But right now we can only change our selves. So as we live through these difficult times, let's bear those words in mind and commit to live in this way. That's what perspective gives us.


Earlier this year on the thirtieth anniversary we did a meditation on the 'Pale Blue Dot.' You can find a link to the recording below and follow along yourself if you wish. A few of us have committed to pressing 'play' at 7pm PT together on Sunday May 31st. You are welcome to join us. Please also feel free to share this with anyone else who you think would be interested.

If the above player doesn't work for you please click here.
Photo: Earth - Pale Blue Dot - 6 Billion km away - Voyager-1 - original February 14, 1990; updated February 12, 20200212

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share your thoughts, but please be kind. I will remove any spam or unhelpful posts.