Our ‘Pale Blue Dot’

So a new solar system Trappist-1, with potential habitable planets has been discovered.

WOW!

By all accounts this is extra-ordinary stuff. The chance that human life could continue to exist on another planet far from our own, no doubt fills scientists with analytical algorithms and the average person with awe.

Google Images

 

It’s certainly exciting thinking of the possibilities. And yet I’m not sure how I really feel about it all.

Our determined search for habitable planets, makes me we wonder if we’ve already given up on earth. As if we’ve accepted that the damage we’ve done to our planet is irreversible and its end, inevitable.

Like a spoiled child who wrecks their toy but is comforted by the thought that soon, either for a Birthday or Christmas, a shinny new one will certainly replace it.

It’s evident that as a species we have used and abused this beautiful planet of ours. Even if you’re still a skeptic on the Climate Change debate, there is no denying the impact our insatiable appetite for food, fuel,energy, living space, travel, technology, war…. has had on planet Earth.

Mining, fracking, industry, logging, mass agriculture, farming, urban sprawl, infrastructure, consumerism…the list looks bad!

It has to have taken a toll on our fragile planet; our ‘Pale Blue Dot’ as astronomer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan referred to it as.

Back in 1990, a wonderful photograph was taken from the Voyager 1 space probe. Carl Sagan suggested NASA engineers take a photo looking back towards earth, as the probe left our solar system, 6 billion kilometers away.

This image of a ‘Pale Blue Dot’ was presented to an audience at Cornell University in 1994 and Sagan shared his profound reflections on the deeper meaning behind the image.

IMAGE By NASA – NASA, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=245432

“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.”

— Carl Sagan, speech at Cornell University, October 13, 1994.

While we’re busy discovering new planets and solar systems, I hope we still appreciate the beauty, wonder and sheer chance of existing on our own ‘Pale Blue Dot’ because for now, it still is, the only one we’ve got.

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Our Struggles and The Human Collective

There are days, sometimes many in succession, where we feel like the world is against us.

Like everything we try to do or say is at odds with everyone around us. When life lately just seems to have handed us a bad lot and wants to watch us struggle.

It feels crappy and dare I say it….. Unfair!

Because life was only ever meant to be FAIR!

The consoling and reassuring sentiment here is that ……….we all feel this!

Yes, on varying levels and to varying degrees; it is all relative.

But we ARE ALL STRUGGLING at one time or another.

So why then do we selfishly assume, it’s just us? Like we are the only ones on the planet doing it tough right now? That no one person could possibly UNDERSTAND what we’re going through right now?

That self-pity can only offer a lukewarm, fleeting hug at best.

We are humans and yet, only human. As unique as our individual experiences in life are, we share this one element in common….. The struggles of Life.

Our Stories

The ‘stories and struggles’ that make up our lives and the multitudes of those around us, are like threads of whispered conversations. They float, sometime aimlessly, sometimes with intent, mostly unheard, around us.

Our struggles occasionally see the vain light of day, in a clipped conversation, an abrupt argument or a rant on social media.

At other times, our struggles are made to seem sweet and light, the colour of lemon yellow, when really they’re rather muddied, solicitously stifled.

Our struggles either way are open to change, sometimes fickle like the wind and often ripe with contempt for the fellow humans who fail to see our suffering.

But while we are ultimately individuals, we do make up part of the human collective. We share ‘Life’ in common; with all it’s guts and glory, trials and tribulations, peaks and troughs.

The pursuit of Happiness

So surely, reason tells us it’s OK to struggle. It’s a part of life. There’s nothing wrong with us if we’re not happy ALL the time.

In fact 19th Century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer even went so far as to say ‘we are all a little imbalanced’.

“There is only one inborn error, and that is the notion that we exist in order to be happy….so long as we persist in this inborn error….the world will seem to us full of contradictions. For at every step, in great things and small, we are bound to experience that the world and life are certainly not arranged for the purpose of being happy”. The School of Life

So refusing to acknowledge that just like us, others around us everywhere are facing similar turmoil, means we are truly doing ourselves an even greater disservice.

Wouldn’t we be much better off going around assuming, that the bus driver is struggling perhaps too, in some area of her life. That the stranger walking their dog in the morning is dealing with his own demons. The curt sales assistant is experiencing loss presently or your child’s teacher is possibly still battling with a lengthy divorce?

Strength in Numbers

If we are part of a collective, then why not rally behind one another, comforted by the knowledge that we’re all fighting our own battles, shaking off some struggles.

Here too Schopenhauer would recommend that we look in the mirror, step back from the day-to-day and ‘look at life without illusion’.

That life can be a series of struggles, does not mean we have to suffer them alone or in despair.

They’re as common as flies, just as irritating, but none-the-less, part of life.

The chance to exist and make of it what we will, (dependent on the circumstances that we may face and the choices we make) is an incredibly empowering idea.

Better yet, pulling together in the shared knowledge that we are all only human and that struggles are a part of life, can help us avoid the self-pity trap and move forward instead, with hope and resolve.

Things will and always do, eventually, get better.

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The LEGO In Our Lives

LEGO. Those bright little blocks meant to foster creativity in our kids.

Sure they seem innocuous enough: tiny, colourful, plastic pieces of fun, which end up getting in your way, under your feet and before you know it they multiply in plague proportions scattering themselves wontonly about the house.

It has certainly made me wonder lately that life, like our house, is often littered with LEGO pieces. Tiny but cumulative incidents that can bother us to bits.

Blocking up vacuum cleaners, taking over kitchen tables, hiding in shoes, ready to strike at any moment, insistent on hassling you and making you always work to clear them away.

Their presence might seem small, but in greater numbers…. A proverbial pain in the butt (or foot in my case).

These LEGO pieces have the ability to constantly fill up all areas of our house and no matter how many times I pick them up, they’re quite happy to reappear at any given moment and strategically place themselves in my path.

Luke warm solutions

I’ve tried ignoring them, stepping over or around in the hope that someone else might just clear them up…… “KIDS!!!”

I’ve attempted to teach my boys (and husband) the finner art of returning them to their rightful place once finished, in vain.

I’ve meticulously searched the house, NCIS style gathering all potential pieces likely to murder my vacuum cleaner, thinking ‘I’ve got you all, you little suckers!’ only to be falsely rewarded with a bad back the next day and a pile of pieces under foot!

I’ve even been known to stash them away on higher shelves, unwitnessed and out of the rampant hands of my curious boys.

But No. There’s just no getting rid of them.

Life in small blocks

Just as at home, in life these ‘LEGO pieces’ can be annoying, persistent and steadily overwhelming.

Tiny incidents or small dilemmas can quite quickly and easily fill our days, weeks, lives with bothersome burden.

It might be the minor disagreement you had with your partner in the morning. The crazy driver who gave you the finger when you took the roundabout a little too cautiously.

Then that unfinished task you had to leave at work in order to collect kids from school. The broken front door that you still haven’t fixed.

The essential shopping ingredients you forgot to get on the way home and finally that book you still have not finished reading, despite your best efforts.

These incidents scatter themselves about our day and have a tendency, not unlike LEGO, to pile themselves one on top of the other.

They play on our mind and annoyingly niggle away at our emotional state.

These somewhat minor troubles in the course of our day seem harmless enough on their own but in growing numbers, left to accumulate, can pester us to the point of ‘flipping out!’.

But accepting that they are there and working out what to do with them, isn’t easy.

Nietzsche on LEGO

Famous German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche offers us some insight here (despite living a good 50 years before LEGO) when he suggested that….

“A great souled person rises above their circumstance and difficulties to embrace whatever life throws at them”. The School of Life

He also gave us the rather melancholy expression “To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering” and “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
Soooooo easier said than done! But he’s probably on to something.

Facing up to things, even those that may initially seem small and insignificant means we are not letting them control us or burdened us with their presence.

We can choose to address them, pick them up then and there and put them away with a swift ‘Ah, life’s too short to let that bother me’ shrug. Because that’s really the truth, right?

And denying that the culmination of these burdens exists, does nothing to help us cope with them in our life.

So in a sentiment close to Nietzsche’s philosophy, we could simply say to ourselves, ‘deal with it’ or my personal favourite, ‘build a bridge and get over it’.

The fact is; whether we pick up those pieces of LEGO, feign disinterest and step over them or leave them to slowly but surely hound us, they’re going to be there time and time again.

These things never disintegrate (Damn you Ole Kirk Christiansen).

And yet the LEGO pieces that are a part of life, with all their colour and potential, contribute to a rich part of our existence.

“Play well” is the danish translation for LEGO (leg godt) and that seems a fitting way to view life and the LEGO pieces that can clutter it.

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