Thoughts on Carl Sagan’s ‘A Pale Blue Dot’

“This effort will only intensify in the years and decades to come as we go from being space-bound again to even Moon-bound and Mars-bound with our eyes set forward to being a galactic species.”

Carl Sagan’s ‘A Pale Blue Dot’ Speech

As much as we try to ignore it, pay it no thought, or just let it fade into the background of our priorities, Planet Earth is our only current and future home. When I say ‘future home’ as well, I may be met with some skepticism given the exciting recent events in putting man and woman back into space with success. This effort will only intensify in the years and decades to come as we go from being space-bound again to even Moon-bound and Mars-bound with our eyes set forward to being a galactic species.

However, while this excitement is commendable and our goals of being an interplanetary species a revolutionary event that could transform human life, I think we all need to remember that even though this effort to touch down on other planets including Mars may be a decade away, it will be quite a while still where people in large quantities can explore, live, and settle down in a planet not named Earth. You can practically guarantee that by reading this article in the year 2022 that it is very remote that we will be able to see humanity transcend Earth to live on other Earth-like planets in our lifetimes.

While I personally believe that Earth in our galaxy is not the only habitable planet, finding one that is, being able to go there, and then sustaining ourselves there will be the challenges of not years or decades but centuries forward. It is a noble pursuit and one that is likely to occur in the far future. My concern during this renewed era around space travel and interplanetary focus is that we stand to lose our only planet’s hospitable climate while we try to find others like the current one, which we are so blessed to have.

Multiple reports out there especially recently cite that we may be past the point of no return already when it comes to pulling the planet back from the depths of climate change activity already in motion. Our Planet Earth or as the great Carl Sagan would say, the ‘Pale Blue Dot’ is in danger of only having a century or less left where it is hospitable for humans to live there comfortably. Natural disasters are clearly getting worse, droughts, wildfires, flooding, torrential downpours culminating together to create something out of a Biblical prophecy on top of the fact that the Polar ice caps melting has accelerated alongside unseasonably warm temperatures in the Arctic.

While we marvel at putting impressive rockets into space that can land vertically after being thousands of miles away, our planet is going through a stage five fire alarm and basically ringing the warning signs for us to collectively do something about the current climate crisis. We do not know how fast this crisis will accelerate and how bad it will get and when it will be unsustainable for Earth to be a hospitable planet, but we can measure that in decades and not centuries. We race to get to space and to find a hospitable planet other than our neglected and vengeful home of record, but we are at a disadvantage in my view. We do not have centuries to fix our climate crisis, but mere decades or even a decade as some have argued. Our ability to find an Earth-like planet for which humanity would have to relocate in mass would not take place for centuries and not decades.  

I am not writing this article to solve the climate crisis or to illustrate what we all should do to combat it; I believe we know what to do in our lives and what we should tell those in power to implement but rather my fear is that we have lost sight of the importance of why Planet Earth is so precious and worth fighting for. There is no better illustration of the gravity of our current fight to save Earth than the humble video recorded speech of the late famous American astronomer, Carl Sagan, who summed up the sheer importance of why ‘here’ or ‘Earth’ matters so much in the grand scheme of the Cosmos. “That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.”

The ‘A Pale Blue Dot’ speech by Mr. Sagan highlights the totality of how Earth captured the human experience from across the globe among the tens of billions of people who lived on our planet including every hunter, forager, creator, destroyer, king, peasant, mother, father, and hopeful child. Everyone who has existed has lived on Earth on a ‘mode of dust suspended on a sunbeam.’ Mr. Sagan highlights the cruelties and violence that we have committed and continue to commit against each other to control a small part of the ‘pale blue dot’ we call Earth. The delusions of grandeur, the great ego we all struggle with, and how we think of ourselves as greater than the vastness of space and the endless infinity that surrounds us outside of our banal conflicts and glories.

Carl Sagan makes the point that in 2022, “The Earth is where we make our stand.” We can visit other planets like Mars or our own Moon, but we cannot live there yet. Mr. Sagan highlights the need to preserve and cherish ‘the pale blue dot’, which is still the only home we have ever known. To be kind to one another, to treat one another with respect, and to realize that the significance of our lives and of our place in the universe is quite minimal when you consider the vast never-ending spectrum of the cosmos. The Voyager 1 took the photo of the miniscule ‘pale blue dot’, otherwise known as Earth, over thirty years ago on February 14th, 1990, which inspired Carl Sagan’s speech and then book on what it means to see Earth from space to realize how small yet precious it is to have our home in the galaxy, and that it is the only known one we have in our universe.

As much as we try to distance ourselves from the fact that we are quite small and insignificant outside of ‘pale blue dot’, we occasionally should use that photograph to remind ourselves of how significant the Earth is to humanity and how we would not be surviving as a species without it as our home since the dawn of man and woman. If we choose not to preserve and protect for future generations, it will be a sad day with ancestors henceforth will have to leave a dying Earth to hope for a ‘better’ world, which may not even exist for us. All the love, death, goals, hopes, dreams, pain, pleasure of what it means to be human has taken place on our only home of Earth. The speech was a wakeup call to people in 1990 to take our only home of Earth more seriously and it will continue to be that clarion call for 2022 and beyond as the warning signs grow louder and more ominous if actions are not taken to combat the climate crisis.

While the movement to preserve Planet Earth has been around since at least the 1960s with the growth of environmentalism, Sagan’s ‘pale blue dot’ speech has inspired and continues to inspire those of us who realize how grave of an existential threat climate change is to humanity and how vital it is to protect this only home of ours. Sagan would not argue with those people who are trying to get us into space currently and to the parts unknown of our galaxy, but he would also remind us not to neglect our only home, not to abandon it to certain devastation, nor destruction, and to fight to keep it as a hospitable home for future generations. “Every human, who has ever lived, has lived on Earth,” he makes clear in the ‘pale blue dot’ speech and if the Earth is thriving, humanity will also have the chance to thrive too.

The Art of Introspection

“There is no shame in turning inwards from time to time. When I say turning inwards, I am referring to the art of introspection.”

There is no shame in turning inwards from time to time. When I say turning inwards, I am referring to the art of introspection. Being able to concentrate solely on your thoughts, emotions, and feelings is a key part of being emotionally mature. Now, it does not mean that you are constantly evaluating how you feel about someone or something 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but rather you are taking a few minutes or even an hour out of each day to step back, just pause and think, and reflect on how you are doing emotionally.

Being in touch with how you are doing without being prompted by someone else is healthy emotionally. Also, no one knows how you are feeling, what your thoughts are, or what you believe better than you. We can get caught up a great deal in how others view us and what they are thinking about us when the priority should be about what we are thinking or feeling about ourselves instead. Consciously stepping back from the world to analyze our thought processes, our feelings, and our worldview is a healthy thing to do, and I really encourage every reader perusing this article to do so daily, if not each week if you are pressed for time.

Introversion is never a sign of weakness or aloofness. Rather, it is a sign that you can be self-aware to the extent that you can take a step back from the world to pause, reflect, and view your emotions from your own personal standpoint. Being an observer is key not only for one’s surroundings and regarding other people you come across but also to observe yourself and to be able to sum up how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking not only about the present but to some extent to engage with what you’re examining for the future as well as the past.

Psychologists often say that introversion is not just observing or examining one’s own mental state but also one’s soul. Keeping one’s soul intact by evaluating your actions, beliefs, feelings and knowing how to do soul searching or to invigorate one’s soul is part of the introversion state. As a functioning adult or in the process of becoming one, performing self-analysis is key to being a more mature and responsible individual. Nobody’s perfect, of course, and being able to be introspective, will help you learn from your mistakes, do better next time, and see where you went wrong and how things could have gone better.

It’s easier to examine the people in your life’s actions, beliefs, or thought processes but those assumptions may not be accurate or fully formed because you never truly know what’s going on in another person’s life or why they act or believe in the way that they do. The only 100% analysis I believe that you can do is the one you can do on yourself since no one knows who you are better than you do. While you can still lie to yourself or not be entirely faithful to who you believe yourself to be, introspection is an action that you can always get better at the more you practice it sincerely.

When it comes to introspection or self-analysis, it’s not a one-and-done deal. You must be introspective multiple times a week in my view or at the minimum at least once a week. It is key to be in a quiet or tranquil place or setting by yourself and without any distractions. You should not be on your phone, with a friend, or performing some activity or action. You cannot do a real self-analysis or self-reflection when you are doing other things that require your attention.

Some people do not even realize that we already perform introspection without even noticing that we are committing this action in our daily or weekly routines. Whether it is brushing our teeth, jumping in the shower, going on a solo hike in a secluded forest, or even performing your fifteen minutes of yoga or meditation; these are all excellent forms of introspection where we can take the time to analyze our behavior, emotions, and feelings. It does not take a lot of time to do and if we have an activity that doesn’t distract us with talking, eating, listening to music, or being entertained by something we see or hear, you will better be able to perform your introspection or self-analysis at least a few minutes each day and it will add up over time.

When you can perform some introspection through some habit or activity in solitude that you do, you will get better at being able to perform this introspection without it being too difficult or tedious. There are twenty-four hours in a day and even a few minutes to check in with ourselves to see how we’re doing, what we’re feeling, thinking about how to be a better person or what to change for the future; that kind of introspection will be worth it to do so, and it will be easier to do so when we set some time apart to look inwards.

The next time you feel like you need some alone time to think, reflect, and get in touch with what you’re feeling: you should do that. There is nothing wrong with some introspection and I find personally that it is extremely healthy and beneficial to our mental clarity and our overall state of being. Each day, we are seemingly overwhelmed with the thoughts, beliefs, and actions of others and we are forced to react instantaneously since it affects our lives to some degree. It can be a struggle to take a step back to think things through or analyze why we reacted the way we did. Because of how fast things happen in our lives and how often we are around others and must be quick on our feet, it is very healthy to be able to carve out some time, even if a few minutes each day, to reflect rather than react and to process our actions to be able to be and do better in an effort to be more emotionally healthy and mature.

Anatomy of a Scene – The Dream

“In his 30+ years as a police officer, he means well but he has noticed an increasingly brutal fact that is inescapable. The world has become more unforgiving, violent, and it is hard for him to make an impact whereas at the beginning of his career, he sought to make it a better place.”

Tommy Lee Jones is an elderly police officer overmatched in the excellent ‘No Country for Old Men’ (2017). He is overmatched for a number of reasons including not being able to keep up with the actions of violent men who show no compassion or no remorse. Throughout the film, he is always just a step behind the sociopathic Anton Chigurh and fails to either apprehend him or to prevent him from killing innocent people. In his 30+ years as a police officer, he means well but he has noticed an increasingly brutal fact that is inescapable. The world has become more unforgiving, violent, and it is hard for him to make an impact whereas at the beginning of his career, he sought to make it a better place.

Ed Tom Bell is your average protagonist who means well, wants to do right in his work, and believes he can do good but finds himself overmatched and overwhelmed by what he is asked to do. When he thinks of his future, he wonders what is left for him and if retirement will bring him peace or have him think back on what could be.

The dream scene begins with Ed Tom, now retiring, looking out of his window at his farm’s seemingly barren landscape with a sole tree to his left through the window behind him. A man of seemingly few hobbies and fewer words, he thinks about his day ahead and thinks about the possibility of riding around on his horse. Not too enthused about it, he also asks his wife if he should help around the house. Seemingly because he is less than skilled at this work, his wife believes it’s better that “he not.” He asks if his wife will join him riding but she is still working and a member of society actively.

Resigned to his fate as a retiree instead of being an active police officer, he reflects to his wife that he’s had dreams and he wants to share them. She says that he has time for them now and that she’ll be polite while he remembers them. He goes ahead and states that there were ‘two dreams’, they were ‘peculiar’ and both of them involved his father who has long passed away. Ed Tom is an older man than his father ever was indicating his father passed away at a younger age that of which Ed Tom will live to be longer.

The first dream is almost like a flash as most of our dreams tend to be with the details muddled and hard to recall. Ed Tom only states that he meets up with his young father in town and he leaves him some money perhaps as a way of his father being there for him even if he wasn’t present physically in his life. Similar to losing his father early in life, Ed Tom believes he lost his money in the dream as well leaving him without help as his father’s early death may have inadvertently done.

The second dream is much more imaginative and involve Ed Tom and his father living in ‘older times’ perhaps when the West was not settled and was lawless. He is no longer a police officer maintaining law and order but rather a horse rider having adventures with his father as he wishes they perhaps would have had time for had he lived longer.

This second dream is much more vivid as Ed Tom recalls how it is cold, they are going through a mountain pass together. They ride together in the snow among the mountains of the night until his father rides past him with no explanation and his blanket wrapped tight against him. This is confusing to Ed Tom at first knowing how hard it is to be without his father who he loves and must face the cold world without him as if he has been abandoned again. Though he may have lost his father, Ed Tom recalls how his father was carrying ahead a fire and a horn of a golden moon color, which gave him comfort despite the fact that he was not with him riding together.

“He was going on ahead, fixing to make a fire.” Ed Tom believes his father in the dream is out there doing this noble act in the middle of all the dark and cold, which is brutal to handle. “I knew whenever I got there, he’d be there…then I woke up.” The hope that Ed Tom haves is that his father even though it seems like he abandoned him as the son is that he really is instead looking out for him and paving the road ahead with light so he would not abandon his hope.

He believes that his father even though he may not be there with him wants him to keep going ahead and to meet him eventually instead of becoming deterred. He paves the way for his son to chase the flame of his absence and to resolve to not let the dark encapsulate him fully. Ed Tom’s expression about the dream is one of resigned sadness that his father is no longer around but also one of lingering strength to believe his death was not in vain and that he will reunite with him one day. His father, like him later, use their lives to keep the flame and the light moving forward even when surrounded by the darkest aspects of human nature.

Like any dream scene in a movie, this one has a deeper meaning behind it related to one man’s grief involving the loss of not only his livelihood but of his hope for a brighter future for humanity. Having seen the horrors that people inflict on one another, he may be resigned to that fact but he also believes his father would have wanted him to keep the flame ‘alive’ and to keep carrying it forward throughout his life even if things looked bleak. His death did not stop Ed Tom from keeping the flame moving in his own life and to carrying it forward in the hopes that he would bring it to his father someday when they would eventually be reunited in another lifetime or in another dream that seemed real.

Being Sentimental

Is it worth it for a person to be sentimental? Is it healthy or unhealthy to hold on to certain items, memories, or keepsakes for the long-term? Like most things in life, there is a balance that has to be struck when it comes to sentimentality. Some folks are not sentimental at all and don’t have much care for old family photos or for holding on to gifts beyond their initial utility. Other people are much more sentimental and hold on to personal keepsakes for years on end allowing their living spaces and their memories to become cluttered as time goes by.

As you get older, your memories will inevitably start to fade away so certain items, keepsakes, and important people in your life can help you to remember certain moments of your past that you’ll want to preserve due to their importance to you. Not everything and not everyone from your past will live on in your memories so you have to be responsible enough to choose what really matters to you and which memories mean the most to you going forward. Being able to balance your sentimentality will help you to become a more mature and emotionally healthier adult.

In my possessions, I have a duffel bag, which has some sentimental value to me. I tend to be a more sentimental person than most people and I try to collect photographs and hold on to personal keepsakes as long as I can. One of the items that is particularly sentimental to me is my duffel bag. There’s nothing particularly notable about this duffel bag based on its’ design, style or purpose. Its’ similar to most other duffel bags on the market and can be used for multiple purposes including trips to other places, which is something that I have done a lot of the past couple of years.

The one thing that visually stands out about this duffel bag is its’ logo. Its’ a black duffel bag with a logo of a purple dragon and the name ‘Saprissa’ embroidered in the same logo. ‘Saprissa’ is short for ‘Deportivo Saprissa’, which is a popular Costa Rican football club based out of San Jose, the capital of the country. The duffel bag’s significance to me isn’t based out of its’ usability, color, or design but rather its’ importance lies in where I bought the item and what I have done with it since then.

The reason why this particular duffel bag is sentimental to me, and why I have continuously used it for almost a decade now is because it brings back a lot of memories for me. Ever since I bought the Saprissa duffel bag back in 2008 when I was studying the Spanish language in Costa Rica, I’ve held on to it and have brought it around the world with me.

From short trips to Jordan and the Czech Republic to my long-stays in Turkey and Colombia, this duffel bag has been to almost as many foreign countries as I have. What the bag lacks in style or design, it makes up for it in terms of substance and reliability. For over eight years, my duffel bag has weathered mud, dirt, snow, rain, wind, and other natural elements that I’ve traveled in along with the dozens of taxi, train, plane, and bus rides I’ve been on. It’s never failed me and it has concurrently led to me becoming more and more attached to using it for each of my trips to distant places.

After almost nine years of using this duffel bag, like all things, its’ starting to show physical wear and tear. Most likely, I should have stopped using it after two or three years but the memories always seem to flow back to me when I see the bag lying there in my room or when I pack it up for another trip. The bag itself is linked to the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met, the meals I’ve had, and the experiences that were tied into the adventures I’ve gone through with the help of this simple, black duffel bag which I carried along with me.

The bag handle is starting to fray, the zippers are exhausted, and the strap material is starting to rupture, and I think it may be time for a new duffel bag. It will be difficult for me to stop using the Saprissa bag that I’ve grown so accustomed to over the years. You simply can’t transfer those powerful memories to another bag quite so easily. The best you can do is mentally let your attachment dissolve, get rid of the bag, and transfer those special memories over to those other keepsakes and photographs that will remind you similarly of your past adventures.

Everything and everyone in your past will fade away to some degree. The important thing is to have one or two things left in your possession that you can fall back on so those items can also trigger those past memories for you to remember and recollect, whether they were joyous, happy, sad, or challenging. Being sentimental about all the things from your past can lead to a cluttered memory and a lack of set priorities. However, having one or two items from a trip or event can be enough to give you all the memories and remembrance you need in order to feel connected to your past.

Finding that particular balance of healthy sentimentality is a lifelong struggle but it helps to pave the way for a complete and fulfilling life. The key is to not the let the remembrance of your past keep you from living in the present and from creating your future. Your sentimentality should not prevent you from making new memories, creating new friendships, and forming new bonds with keepsakes.

Like my duffel bag, certain objects will fade away so it may be best to sustain your past with personal photographs, writings, or even paintings so that your memories can feel more permanent and can even be enjoyed by your friends and family members long after the day when you’re no longer around. Where you can let go of your sentimentality is when you realize that some things will be taken away from you whether you like it or not sometimes and it’s not productive to fight against this fact of life.

The best you can do is to place your memories into different items whether it be a journal or a photo album, which are much more sturdy and reliable than my trusty yet fading duffel bag. Above all else, Sentimentality is about caring. As an adult, you have to find out what’s truly worth caring about. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to replace what’s been lost and hold on to the memories that are special to you. You have to be ready to let go one day because nothing lasts forever.

Moments of Quiet Reflection

In a world full of noise and frenzy, it’s to one’s advantage to have some quiet moments of reflection every now and then. It doesn’t have to be every day but five to ten minutes for a couple of times per week can really make a difference in helping you do some self-reflection. Activities like Yoga, Meditation, or just doing deep breathing exercises will allow your mind to quiet itself and reflect on nothing at all or to concentrate on a specific thought. Hearing your own voice and thoughts in your mind is not easy to do but it helps put your past, present, and future into a clearer perspective. It’s a real and underrated pleasure in letting your thoughts run away to new places and but to still control where they go.

Personally, I enjoy my own reflections late at night when the world is quiet and I’m getting ready to fall sleep. I can freely think about past memories that make me smile, and contemplate events on the horizon in my future. Having tried meditation in the past, I can also let go of any and all thoughts that I want to do away with in order to become a clean slate unto myself. Reflecting upon my actions, thoughts, and feelings makes me more introspective and observant, which allows me to acknowledge my overall strengths and weaknesses as a person. Being self-aware of who you are, where you’re going, where you’ve been, and how you got there are all elements in developing a personal sense of meaning and fulfillment.

Listening to ones’ conscience and honing ones’ idea of self is increasingly important in maintaining a sense of identity and purpose. Too often these days, we are with the world all of the time and are constantly absorbing the thoughts and feelings of many other people. While interacting with other is a crucial part of life, we must continue to listen to and reflect on our own thoughts, feelings, and actions. We shouldn’t always act on what we feel, or say what we think, but having these thoughts and reflecting on their origins and meanings should not be discouraged.

Often, we as human beings can care way too much about what other people think, feel, and say about us. It is simply not productive to let others’ thoughts of you consume your own sense of self and purpose. All of us have a limited amount of information that we can take in to our minds, absorb, and act on so we have to choose what’s really important to let into our heads.

In the age of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and social media in general, it’s all too easy to get caught up on in what’s going on in the external world without taking note of what we’re experiencing in our internal world. Indulging in everybody else’s words all of the time will leave you disoriented and overwhelmed. Listening to your own voice above everybody else’s is necessary to have a true sense of self. Make sure to always have a strong identity and a purpose. If that takes more daily quiet reflections, then you should make those a priority in your life. When you are always tuned into the lives of other people, you forget to live your own life.

Live according to your own purpose and vision before considering the thoughts and opinions of others. Yes, while it’s always important to listen and seek guidance from friends and family, sometimes you have to go your own way and follow your destiny, even if you don’t know where that road may lead. Having an active life makes for a stronger and healthier individual.

Be quiet and reflect when your mind feels cluttered and overwhelmed. Take a few deep breaths and relax. Let your mind shut off or let it wander into your memories and experiences. Turn off your phone and the computer to just ‘be present’ in the moment. Let the flow of information and data of the world not influence you in these precious few moments.

The only thoughts and feelings you should be listening to should be your own during these times. Hear your own voice and think about your past, present, and future or try not to think at all. Remember your own ‘why’ of living and maintain your personal bearings. After these crucial moments of quiet reflection, you’ll better understand who you are as a person and what your conscience is telling you. Always allow yourself some time to be present in your own mind, and your mind alone.

%d bloggers like this: