There is something magnificent about space. Something that shows us who we really are. We are children of the cosmos. Observing and recording and acting, we shape the world around us. Yet it is such a small stage in the grand scheme of things. Carl Sagan once noted that there are more galaxies in the Universe than stars in the Milky Way. This, he found, is “a useful calibration of our place in the universe.” We are so very, very small. And yet, we are precious beyond belief.
We war, we kill, we spread across the planet like a virus in sneakers, and yet there is promise within us. There is the drive to find what is across the next horizon, the wanderlust that drove our ancestors to plant their feet on land which had never felt the impact of a human tred. The species that killed over 120,000 individuals within a minute by unleashing nuclear forces is the same one which created the Voyager missions, and the works of art which fill places such as the Louvre, the Vatican and the Smithsonian Institutes. Humanity is a double headed coin, one side blackened by our violence and hate, the other polished to gleaming silver by our curiosity, empathy and driving need to know.
There are times when I abhor our species and our propensity towards violence, cruelty and thoughtlessness. When I see a man blow himself and a busload of people into pieces because of some tribal or religious difference, I close my eyes and shake my head. When I see the homeless man on the side of the road with everyone passing him and the child who has to watch her mother as she is beaten by her father, I cry.
But then there is the other side of the coin. I see the everyday people helping the paramedics care for those who were wounded by the bomb. I see a kind soul who works to help the homeless man get off the street, bringing him blankets and taking him to a shelter out of the snow. In the little girl’s life, I see a neighbor who stands up and calls the police and takes care of the mother and child in the aftermath.
We are a paradox, a two-sided coin. We war and we love, we destroy and we explore. Yet all this takes place here, on Earth. Just one planet circling an unremarkable star named Sol. We share just a tiny spot on the vast intergalactic stage. Will we darken it with our stain? Or will we make this pale blue dot gleam even brighter?