Place three grains of sand inside a vast cathedral, and the cathedral will be more closely packed with sand than space is with stars. — Sir James Jeans
In 2013 NASA released stunning images from the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn. In the photo above, Earth, 900 million miles away, appears as a pale blue dot below Saturn’s rings.
You live there, on that little speck in the universe. Everyone you know lives there. All seven billion human beings live there, as well as the living representatives of 5,500 other species of mammals, 10,000 species of birds, 31,000 species of fish, 9,000 species of reptiles, 47,000 species of crustaceans, 102,000 species of spiders and scorpions, one million species of insects, 23,000 species of trees, 350,000 or so species of plants, and so on.
Not only today, but all the past
All the great nations in human history have belonged to that little speck. Every great leader, and every notorious one as well. All the great writers and artists and scientists and philosophers and saints and founders of religions. Every human laugh ever heard, every song ever sung, every battle ever fought and every tear ever shed, has happened on that little speck, and on a tiny number of silver seeds we have launched into space, making it as far as the moon.
The moon is about 240,000 miles away, about the distance a good car can go in its lifetime. We think that’s far. But in the context of space, that’s not even getting out of bed. Even the 900 million miles to Saturn is nothing.
To begin to think of the Earth in the context of space is to begin a lesson in humility, and to open a path to a vast mystery at the heart of all things.
Photo: “The Day the Earth Smiled.” Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
This post begins in wonder and ends in humility. That means it crosses from the teal to the gold portion of the singing wilderness spiritual map.