War in perspective

As I turn on my television and am bombarded (if I may use that militaristic term) by images of war I feel that we sometimes need to step back and take a different view of the whole thing.

On October 13, 1994, the famous astronomer Carl Sagan was delivering a public lecture at his own university of Cornell. During that lecture, he presented a picture taken of our part of the Universe by the Voyager 1 spacecraft. Here is the picture and the brilliant words of one of the greatest scientific communicators we have ever had among us:

 

He concluded his description of the “Pale Blue Dot” with the following words:

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.”

In the end the shooting war of today becomes tomorrow’s history, written by the victors. Hurricane Sandy though proves just how small and insignificant we really are and perhaps gives us the perspective that we need to realise that we are a fragile species on a speck of dust in space and if we destroy our planet no other species will notice or care.

 

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