Friday, 5 August 2011

Pale blue dot

Yesterday we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary.  It felt like a real achievement.  Looking at this photo, the 'me' I was then felt very different to the 'me' I am today.  The most amazing part of these ten years has been the creation of our wonderful boys.  Having them has taught me so much and been such an intense experience.  By my side, supporting me, growing with me has been David.  Still together, still strong, still my best friend.

We celebrated by having a date at the wonderful Broadway cinema.  We frequented it a lot before we had children.  We went to see the 'Tree of Life'.  I've always loved the symbolism of the Tree of Life.  I knew the film was about a couple with boys.  It knew it starred Brad Pitt and Sean Penn and had a strong philosophical message. 

It's a beautiful film.  It's also very sensory, the visual imagery beautifully crafted, you can almost feel the textures of the film. I knew of the sequence in the film that sets the evolution of our earth to music.  There were other surreal elements that I appreciated less than the story of a family; the highs, lows, love and pain that we all endure as residents of our planet.  The film moved me but not in a way I expected. I felt little empathy with the characters.  They seemed unreal, in spite of great casting.  Perhaps that's the achievement of the film.  We watch the characters play out their lives, as we watch those real lives around us, never really knowing the full story.

In the night I woke, and lay there.  Scenes from the film played through my head.  I could hear the ticking of the universe, the turning of the world.  I remembered how David and I had played Massive Attack's 'Big Wheel' at our wedding. I thought of our life, our blessings, and all the other lives being lived on our planet, and the surge of time, ever onward. No going back.

This morning David introduced me to the Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan.  We are such tiny specks on this dot called Earth.  Our lives so filled with self importance, self delusion.  Yet here we are, all bound together in this tree of life.

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it's different. 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.

For our anniversary, David bought me a beautiful ring made by Susanna Hanl.  It is made from strands of silver and gold and a small opal, symbol of fidelity and assurance.  I put the ring on this morning and realised that when the opal catches the light, it is a pale blue dot.


Duncan said...

Holy macaroni Helen!
Ten years eh,I'm not sure you and David have changed from that picture; you're still both lovely caring and extremely creative people, all be it, you have two more creations to add to your vast portfolio of life.
I prefer to think of you as Helen and Dav 2.0, or maybe that's H&D 10.
Hope you had a wonderful day, lots of love, Duncan, nina and Deepy xxx

Helen Hallows said...

Thank you Duncan. What a lovely message. x

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