Carl Sagan who died in 1996 was one of our most eminent astronomers. Involved with the American space programme, he worked on the Voyager project, taking images of the Solar System, searching for evidence, which might prove we are not alone. They found little. When Voyager 1 was about to go out of range, Carl asked for it to be turned around to take one last picture of earth. This picture was taken from 3.7 billion miles away. From this extraordinary vantage point, our planet looks like nothing more than a tiny mote of dust caught in a single sunbeam. When you think about it, earth is the only home we have ever known. It is us. That is it. End of story so far. On this mote of dust is everyone you love, every hopeful child, corrupt politician, superstar, saint or sinner. It is home for the thousands of religions, ideologies and tin-pot regimes we ever thought up. At times it is easy to forget that Earth is it, and we are mortal. We have no real evidence that there are life forms like us out there; at least within 3.7 billion miles. That’s a lot further than Land’s End! Our little planet is a very small stage. Our leaders and those who follow them have in their time, past and present created havoc, death and destruction on this tiny precious place. Yet with all our wisdom and desire to protect, the blood of innocent people still runs in rivers across the surface of this tiny planet because those who can, choose to tear the homelands of others apart.
Imagine two people cast adrift in a boat miles out at sea. They fight until the boat is burning, and they sink because the boat is all they ever had. What was it for? They lost everything. Nobody wins. If we carry on as we are, fighting, there is nowhere else to go, and just the same, nobody wins.
Looking out of the window of a plane, it is easy to see that we have barely scratched the surface of the earth, like insects on the bark of a tree. We look so small, insignificant, because in the grand scheme, the solar system, the cosmos, call it what you like, we are insignificant, and all that matters in the end is us, and how we choose to live out our lives.
Carl Sagan called the image of earth taken by Voyager ‘the pale blue dot’. Perhaps it should be on every billboard, an advert on the TV to remind us that from 3.7 billion miles away our wars, our anger and hatred of one another look nothing but futile, where nobody wins.