It is in the most profound thoughts that we find thoughts that are the most subversive. Radical relates to the root of something, it is not a move away from the centre, but a move back to its origins. In the deep and in the radical, one finds a perspective on one’s reality.
Listening to a BBC broadcast, a science correspondent spoke of a photograph known as the Pale Blue Dot, a photograph taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft on 14th February 1990 when it was six billion kilometres from the Earth. The photograph is taken looking toward the Earth, which covers an area of less than one pixel in the picture. The correspondent quoted the astronomer Carl Sagan, who sought to place our human existence and endeavours in their proper perspective. Sagan’s analysis of humanity and its priorities is subversive and radical:
We succeeded in taking that picture, and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every 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 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.
[…] 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.
On days when the television news is filled with inhumanity, and when kindness and compassion seem in short supply, there is reassurance in standing outside and looking up into the clear spring night sky and think that all of the evil and arrogance is confined to no more than a single pale blue dot.