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Ch. 1: You Are Here 
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Post Ch. 1: You Are Here
So he ordered the cameras to turn and focus on our planet, knowing fully well that we would appear as a mere point of light in the star-filled sky. Sagan believed this would be a powerful, yet humbling view...and he was so right.

To start with take a look at the Apollo 17 view of Earth....

"And yet there is no sign of humans in this picture, not our reworking of the Earth's surface, not out machines, not ourselves: We are too small and our statecraft is too feeble to be seen by a spacecraft between the Earth and the Moon. From this vantage point, our obsession with nationalism is nowhere in evidence. The Apollo pictures of the whole Earth conveyed to multitudes something well known to astronomers: On the scale of worlds--to say nothing of stars and galaxies--humans are inconsequential, a thin film of life on an obscure and solitary lump of rock and metal."
If Sagan had written this book today he might have added that from the vantage point of Apollo there is no sign or evidence of war. To me viewing our rock from such a distance puts life into perspective. The things that matter so much to me, to all of us, really seem trivial when viewed from afar. In fact, this is one of the techniques I learned to cope with lifes difficulties as a child. I envisioned rising above myself, slowly, to the point where I couldn't see my problems, or anyones problems anymore. I would imagine floating up over my body, my home, my city and state, my nation and continent, my planet and solar system and finally galaxy. It might sound corny, but stepping back and showing yourself that you are NOT the center of the universe can be a wakeup call. And as you drift further and further back your problems become dwarfed by other peoples problems. But soon, as you rise higher and higher, even their problems seen rather silly--in the big scheme of things.

So then he does it. He turns the camera on our little insignificant planet and one of the most moving pictures I have ever seen appears. This picture gives me chills. My mind races as I think about how self-absorbed we all are, out of necessity it seems. I guess we have to consider ourselves the center of the universe in order to survive, but damn this perspective challenges this concept. We're nothing but a faint point of light. There are billions and billions of such points of light. I cannot help but wonder how many other points of light have sentient lifeforms pondering the same great questions. How many have sent machines out to explore and photograph their neck of the woods? Are we so arrogant to think we're the only ones? Some of us are---this is for sure. I can't help but believe an education in astronomy would help to dispell this myth.

You are here.


"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them"

Sat May 08, 2004 10:25 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1: You Are Here
I love the photographs of all those galaxies in one small section of the universe (shown in Chapter 3, was it?). They fill me with joy.

Sagan said that we weren't given the lead in the cosmic drama. The analogy illustrates his point, but it implies an audience and a community. Makes one feel left out, put that way. Left out of what?!! Despite my belief that there must be other forms of life in the universe, I don't picture us as being excluded from some interstellar community. If there is such a thing, it's relatively :b localized, not universe-wide.

When I look at the photos of all those stars, and all those galaxies, I feel not only joy, and wonder, but also - free!

If we destroy all life on Earth, the universe will be unaffected. Some life, somewhere, will still be going on. It doesn't all depend on us.

Whatever does happen to us, little parasites on the skin of an average planet in an average solar system in an unimportant arm of an average galaxy, we're inextricably part of something bigger, something so huge my mind can't encompass it. And isn't that a desire to which religion usually speaks?

edit: well, when I started this post, it fit pretty well with yours, Chris. All that previewing and modifying un-fitted it. :o

Edited by: Tiarella at: 5/12/04 9:36 pm

Wed May 12, 2004 8:28 pm

Post Re: Ch. 1: You Are Here

Carl Sagan describes the human species as essentially ethnocentric. I have to agree with his description because I realize that I am very ethnocentric myself. I love my immediate family the most, and those people of my family that live farther away I love much less. When I was in high-school I always wanted my school's football team to win. Why? Because it was my school, and I always wanted my school to win.
It's generally the same in politics. American politicians (most, anyway) have an ethnocentric view of progress. They seem to think that the whole world revolves around just one nation: the United States of America, and they reveal this in the speeches that they make. They will talk all about America from America's perspective. America must do this, and America must do that. It is rare to find a politician with a world-wide perspective, not to mention a Galaxy perspective!
The last president that I know of that had a world-wide perspective was John F. Kennedy. He realized that no matter what each and every nation's differences were at the time, we all occupy this small planet in this vast Universe. We don't have to end all wars for just America's sake, but we must end all wars for the world's sake!
Indeed, I see some of this world-perspective in the next prospective president, Kerry. Kerry talks about the advance of science, and the progress not just of America, but of the world. I like it when politicians aren't running just at an American perspective but at a citizen of this small planet perspective. When they take into account the bigger picture they can make decisions that will both benefit America and the world. I believe that so far George Bush has shown that he has a limited perspective on things. He's concerned about the immediate self-gratification of just one country of many. (I think you know which one this is). He seems to have no concern for the consequences as long as those consequences lay outside the borders of America.
I hate to flip and make this a political thing, but I have to. There are only 5 more days to register to vote, so all of you who havent registered, register now! Vote in November and change America for the betterment of the entire world.

I'm for Kerry, and I hope that you are too.

God bless (if there is a God).

Sincerely, Arthur (Tury)

Thu Oct 14, 2004 3:55 pm

Post Re: Ch. 1: You Are Here
I also sense that mindset, that he is a citizen of this small world, in Kerry. During the third presidential debate he said:

"I was taught -- I went to a church school and I was taught that the two greatest commandments are: Love the Lord, your God, with all your mind, your body and your soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. And frankly, I think we have a lot more loving of our neighbor to do in this country and on this planet."

This really touched me and I hope he means it.

Sun Oct 17, 2004 1:01 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1: You Are Here

While I'm not at all impressed with John Kerry, I do appreciate your comments. People should feel incredibly lucky to live in a society that grants them the privilege of voting for their leaders.


"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandella

Sun Oct 17, 2004 11:14 pm
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