The ‘Sapient’ Species

This Carl Sagan video “Pale Blue Dot” may not be new to many of you, but for those who haven’t seen it, I think everyone should watch it at least once. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how frequently people conflict over personal issues, power, ideology, wealth, or for whatever rationale. What a way to use the finite time we have to exist. For a species that defines itself, taxonomically, as being sapient, we have an odd way of showing it. 

 

The Pale Blue Dot

“Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, 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.

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The Custodians of Life’s Meaning

This is an inspiring video about humanism from the Carl Sagan series. Nearly every word is quote-worthy, but I’ll just pick a few of them: 
“The significance of our lives, and our fragile planet, is then determined only by our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life’s meaning. We long for a parent to care for us, to forgive us our errors, to save us from our childish mistakes. But knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable... If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.”
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Cosmically Connected Primates

“For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.”                 

– Carl Sagan, Contact

Three different people have shared the inspirational video below with me in the past two days, and I thought it deserved to be disseminated as widely as possible. It’s the response of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson to the question: “what is the most astounding fact you know about the universe?” In his answer, Tyson elaborates on the majestic idea that the heavier elements crucial for organic life owe their origins to the incredible pressures created within aging stars. Those stars then exploded and released their newly forged contents into surrounding space, some of which eventually coalesced into us (to make a long story short).

By itself, that concept is sublime, and it should be enough to sustain one’s sense of awe for a long while. But Tyson also goes a bit farther, speculating on why this idea elicits such an emotional response within us. 

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Perspective

Carl Sagan on our humble origins and our hopeful future:

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“For all our failings, despite our limitations and fallibilities, we humans are capable of greatness.”