Land 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 triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a point. 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 hatred. Our position, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have a privileged position in the universe are challenged by this point of pale light.
As the ancient myth makers knew, we are children equally of the earth and sky. In our meaning on this planet, we have accumulated dangerous evolutionary baggage – the propensity for aggression and ritual, presentations to leaders, hostility to foreigners – all of which puts our survival in doubt. But we have also acquired compassion for others, love for our children, a desire to learn from history and experience, intelligence and a soaring, passionate – the clear tools for our survival and prosperity.
What aspects of our nature prevail is uncertain, particularly when our visions and prospects are bound to a small part of this small planet Earth. But up there in the cosmos, an inescapable perspective out. National boundaries are not evident when we see the earth from space. Fanatic ethnic identifications, religious or national are a little hard to bear when we see our planet as a fragile blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the great citadel of the stars.
31 years ago, NASA experienced one of the greatest disasters in the history of the space program. The space shuttle Challenger broke apart just 73 seconds into the flight.The disas...