I recently saw a video of “Pale Blue Dot.” It is Carl Sagan’s meditation on our “insignificant earth” accompanied by a visual of earth receding into the void until it becomes but a ‘pale blue dot’.
Carl Sagan was more of a poet than most physicists, I guess. His grasping for hope in the face of his own mortality should be recognized for his humanity.
Sagan’s musings inspired me with some thoughts and reactions. I won’t reprint his narration here. It is easily googled.
Sagan condemns mankind as self-important and deluded about our privileged place in the universe. Privileged and self-important as compared to what? What is offended that we use our consciousness to examine our inner and outer worlds?
If we are alone in the universe, our abilities to examine our world and think about our place in it, make us unique.
Our mind is our greatest tool. Should we attenuate its power so as to step down from this privilege? Did this world famous scientist really suggest we do so?
Ideas have no tangible existence yet they can move mountains. If we are to act only on the visible and the material, we severely limit ourselves while reaching for the stars.
That we are not good stewards of our only home, our planet, speaks to a deeper flaw than poor hygiene.
Because no known planet is hospitable, Sagan states that it is here on Earth that “we make our stand.” This phrase reminds us of ‘Custer’s Last Stand,’ probably the most familiar use of the term. It came into use depicting a heroic, tragically failed defense against the superior numbers of an ‘inferior’ enemy.
Revisionist history thankfully recasts the racist Custer’s blunder into enemy territory. He was blinded by genocidal instincts and trapped by his grasping for glory. His true enemy resided within. Rather than heroic, Custer was embarrassingly human, an every-man.
Sagan, the atheist who dismisses religion as pompous, has more faith than I do. He believes humanity, through our own will, can change our essence and become consistently caring and upright in our endeavors. What evidence has he (the scientist), that this could ever be possible? Did someone say ‘self-important’?
Even if you disbelieve in a Supreme Being, why would you believe in that? Is he not actually promoting flaccid, New-age wish fulfillment masked by his scientific bona-fides? Humanity will save itself? Are you high?
Did Sagan want “a hint” of our needed salvation coming from beyond our solar system? What gives Sagan the confidence that a superior alien race would be more merciful to us than we are to each other? Or than we are to ‘lesser beings’?
As for migrating to new worlds, if mankind destroyed earth but successfully escaped elsewhere, would anyone be surprised that we brought our ‘fouled-up-edness’ along for the ride?
“What do you mean you ‘forgot to pack the innocence’?”
What new insights would we gain or bring to the enterprise of settling some distant planet? Or would we merely replay the past before a fresh landscape? Tell me these refugees would not soon be ravaged by their innate talent to deny their own inner darkness?
How does it follow, if it is all so meaningless, that must we be kind to each other? What is the payoff in that?
It seems it is that meaninglessness which drives men to fill the void with their self-importance and ever expanding egos. Believing we answer to no one but ourselves in service of our grandiose cravings is what creates monsters and tyrants.
Doesn’t our pride keep us from achieving our ideals? Generally, those who successfully transcend their basest nature, do not claim the credit, but give it to the ineffable – God. Transcendence would make such self-aggrandizement absurd.
Sagan says there is no hint of anyone coming to save us from ourselves. But our Savior is, was and will ever be. There is more than a hint if we open our hearts. Truth is unavoidable to one who humbly listens to that ‘still small voice’ in the whirlwind.
The Bible talks throughout of the God of the insignificant, the forgotten, the weak, the meek, and the downtrodden. The strong need no God. The strong fend for themselves. They are an end unto themselves.
Knowing our Creator favors the insignificant, allows us to stop inflating ourselves within a vacuum. Acknowledging our insignificance within this vast and magnificent universe humbles us.
The expectation that earth is the only home for life, suggests that ours is a very important speck indeed. Earth’s unique, life bearing status makes us privileged. But this is not our doing. A better term than ‘privileged’ might be that we are recipients of undeserved favor, or grace.
Humankind would be better served, not only by owning our humble place within Creation, but also in acknowledging its loving and merciful Creator.
Or not. That is the proverbial choice.