The Pale Blue Dot

What is man that You are mindful of him?

By Tony Goudie

Many people remember where they were when Big Events happen.

We all have our memory moments – JFK, Martin Luther King, Lady Diana, Sir Patrick Moore. I remember I was watching a BBC1 comedy at 9:30 PM on Thursday December 5th with a gale blowing outside when the news broke of Nelson Mandela’s demise two hours earlier.

Perhaps you remember “The Pale Blue Dot”? Carl Sagan (1934-1996) was an American cosmologist who gave the request to Voyager’s cameras in 1977 to turn and take a last look at earth from 3.7 billion miles out as the probe travelled away at 40,000 miles an hour heading out of the Solar System. The resulting image very faintly showed our Good Earth as a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam as he cleverly commented.

His poetic and sobering words are recorded for us: 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.

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. 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.

Mandela and others looked for a time when humanity could live at peace, and he did his part under the great shadow of the real Peacemaker and Reconciler, Jesus Christ. President Obama commented after Mandela’s death that, “Nelson Mandela doesn’t now belong to us; he belongs to the Ages.” Thank God that Jesus Christ belongs to all the Ages. Maybe we too remember where we were when the Living Jesus Christ entered our personal space as the Greatest Peace Maker this world has ever and will ever know – the Jesus who loves us, and who has abundant love and favour for our Pale Blue Dot and all who live, have ever lived, and will ever live, upon it.

Tony Goudie is an amateur astronomer and GCI pastor in the UK.