Earth: Stand In to Stand Out

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By: Suhail Rafiq Mir,
Prashant Sharma

Thirty years ago, bound for the edges of the solar system, on February 14, 1990, a spacecraft “Voyager 1”, had flown past Jupiter and Saturn and sent beautiful close-ups and scientific data back to Earth and helped to highlight the flimsiness of our existence and the significance of our stewardship by capturing a unique view and one last look at Earth.

The picture came to be known as “Pale Blue Dot” only 0.12 of one pixel in size. Pale Blue Dot was part of a notable larger “family” portrait of the solar system. Regardless of our sphere being so insignificant, the image has an eccentrically magic aluminous through which first-ever we begin to appreciate our planet, not only in the more extensive solar system but in the universe we reside.

The “Pale Blue Dot” is a picture from a distance of 3.8 billion miles (6 billion kilometres) from the Sun. It is tough to explain in words the feeling conjured by the photograph. The whole scenario gives feelings when one catches one’s face surprisingly in front of a mirror, without conscious or having realized it. Maybe it’s because the image shows us our profound fragility, identity and our accurate scale. The Pale Blue Dot picture of Earth is not stunning. Though, that didn’t matter in the end, because it was the way “Pale Blue Dot” and the image itself tantamount with an inspirational call to planetary brotherhood and protection of Earth.

To have a more in-depth look and understanding from the picture all of our problems, from big to small, including the current situation of social distancing and psychological distancing due to COVID-19 pandemic, seems very insignificant. It reflects that the entire planet is just a tiny pale of light floating in the dusk of space. However, way down here, things are much more prominent in reality. A planet with over 7.7 billion population and currently, 5-6 billion of them are confined and locked at home.  The late astronomer uses the picture as a life lesson and shares his reflection on what it meant and the importance for everyone to capture its deeper meaning. The picture inspired the scientist Carl Sagan and in the consideration set a title for his inspirational and influential book, “Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space,” in which he wrote:

{“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 posturing, 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}

The whole thing defines everything there isn’t much that needs to be added to that. It magnificently captures a delicate part of reality that is mistreated and ignored by all of us by thinking and concern about our daily course and future plans. It puts into framework many things that we see and do and their relative prominence in the structure of things. The whole picture reminds every one of us that there is a very distinctive universe that exists outside the daily lens through which we execute and thrust our own agenda and centrality on our surroundings.

Well, there are diverse scales of perspective that we are all competent in applying if we are conscious and heroic enough to do so. Every now and then, the scale that matters is the one that gives you self-assurance and authority about your place in the world and whatever it is you need to do to get by in your daily routine. The journey of life would have been so much exciting, and much of the time, we would all be healthier and productive if we learned how to zoom out to have a larger frame.

It may not decipher every internal struggle in our mind or external battle that plagues the world, but it can give us the equipment to treat and indulge ourselves and the people around us just a little bit better and healthier. To some extent, the world adapts to the perspective you implement in seeing it. Choose wisely.

There is a partial desolation in the identification of our inconsequentiality. To some, it strengthens the feelings of inferiority and emptiness. It also takes away the pride and self-congratulatory in our identity and the sacrifices we make. If the universe is so vast, and if we aren’t at its centre, and if no single thing we do matters in some practical sense, then what is the point? Why go on concerning ourselves with small matters? Such questions arise in our minds.

However, Carl Sagan would likely tell you that the collective reality of existence we all live with each other still matters and makes a difference. In reality, it’s the only entity that matters, and all that the limitlessness of the cosmos does is remind and nudge us to keep this shared reality structured in a way that makes it more acceptable and bearable. The reflection of studying the sciences, it’s not just that everything around us is intensely connected, due to these connections is why things work in the first place.

The webbing and ideologies we have created are accountable for allowing us to leap beyond our individual inherited potential and possibilities to shape and influence the world as we have. There is something primarily inspirational about the fact that we are fundamentally a dance of molecules in an ever-expanding line of units. Also, supplementary things are going on around us. You can both choose and adapt to contribute to this progression or just let it take the pressure off.

Since 1990 the Pale Blue Dot inspired people at large to look inversely at their place in the whole universe. It seems to have a reflection to view our apparently big and complex planet on a scale that showed a different antipode of an entity. However, the whole picture gave us the courage to acknowledge and employ our trifling. It is essential that not all sides of our lives request to see the universe from side to side with the lens, but is censorious to add and be a part of our mental wellbeing. With more significant positive and joyful interconnection empower the world to move forward happily. We are interacting with our shared reality; we sense and see our distinct efforts adding rather than detracting.

There is a far more extensive progression on the way, and we are all a part of the same thing. During the process, the amount of responsibility is totally up to us; however, we can’t deny its beauty. The fleck of dust we live on is all we have ever known. We just need to own it and realize it and try to do something to make it better for everyone. Try to live in the present moment good or bad feel what you have to feel and do what you must do, to show the negativity and rumours away, and to let the excellent feeling flow and enjoy the moment fully.

In the present stressful situations, we need to be grateful for the little things that are somewhere eternally connected to us, and still make us smile, the struggles, the small acts of help, whatever that will always make us thankful, and spreads love and joy. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. It can be the most beautiful day of our lives or maybe the worst, but no matter what the situation offers us, never forget to live right here, right away, in the ‘now.’ Let’s continuously choose to love, despite the chaos; choose to love, despite the different sets of beliefs and choose to live wisely. From time to time, nature will reveal truths which we find painful and questionable, but we’re still better off knowing specific details and context and try to make the most of it. At times reality refuses to match our expectations and is impossible for our brains to grasp, but the evidence just continues to mount with more clarifications and solutions.

However, the hope for tomorrow will keep us going while we may have a rough time right now; undoubtedly, it will not last long. Our destinations are not hit by adverse events and with low periods for the rest of our lives. Sooner or later, things will start picking magic moments, and we will together find our own brands associated with happiness. After all, life is all about Moving, Accepting, and Balancing.

(The Author Suhail Rafiq Mir is Research Scholar in the Department of Psychology Aligarh Muslim University. His main area of research lies in the dynamics of action and perception. Currently, his research is focusing on exploring bidirectional interaction between motor control mechanisms and perceptual system. He is also involved in investigating the action-based framework to explain the attentional mechanisms.)

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