Wondering while Wandering…
…an artist’s limp toward finding ‘Radiance Through the Rain’
‘May the Rain of Suffering Soften Our Hearts,
Seeping Radiance to Our Thirsty Places.’
- Douglas Thompson© 2023
On Sagan and Snow
A close friend of mine recently posted the words of the thoughtful, profound writer and scientist Carl Sagan, along with recent NASA images looking back from space showing our little blue dot in context to the ever-expanding cosmos.
When beginning this ‘blog’ or ‘Thoughts on Art, Life, Philosophy, and Faith from my Studio…’, I said that I might ask more questions than attempt to provide answers. These questions crossed my mind today regarding a recent snowfall last night and the post I read this morning.
In another essay, Sagan makes a statement worth consideration.
‘Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.’ Carl Sagan
Hmmm….? I wonder what or who that might be? Has it, or have they arrived already?
He writes in the post I mentioned…
“Look again at 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.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. 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 hatreds. 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 dot.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space
Among those thousands of confident religions, he refers to, a founder of one, (which may or may not actually be in this category) claimed something far greater than just being a person in history who provided great teachings for humanity to follow. In fact, as esteemed author C.S. Lewis stated, and I paraphrase, he must have been a lunatic to claim what he did unless, of course, he was the real deal…hmmm. Was he?
Just maybe we do hold a privileged position in the universe. Let’s take, for instance, his statement ‘mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.’ Why does this ‘mote of dust’ blue look like a rich blueberry floating? Yes, the undergirding of our planet is made of dusty minerals, as are the others, but what covers it here that gives it cosmological uniqueness? Water and its reflective nature. And, of course, the ‘sunbeam.’ Not too close, not too far. Those of us who live in northern climates know that the winter access to that sun is tenuous, both in the amount of light we receive and the amount of warmth. We and all other living things are primarily made of water.
Certainly, we have air to breathe, beauty to behold, love to share, and all of our senses to absorb all the richness of good things. That, to me, to name just a couple, seems ‘like a privilege’ in comparison to the blinding heat or intense cold with bleak dusty death everywhere you look in cosmic deep, if, in fact, you had the miracle of sight to see with. Just maybe we were chosen to belong here, to love here, create here, and to recognize, yes indeed, our puniness in relation to most things, let alone the universe. We also have individual value. Who would have given us that idea? Are we cared for? Do we belong? Is there an ultimate home, or do we drift into the dark cosmic dust forever?
Is our planet just a lonely speck of dust, as is suggested, or something created for existential value and sustained from a source far beyond our puny selves? That whacko lunatic from Palestine that everyone seems to use his name disparagingly in their idle chatter seemed to think so. At least, he claimed to be. Yes, and history informs me well with far more hints than any other historical figure, that indeed, ‘someone was coming to save us from ourselves.’ Hmmm?
Yes, here, I fully agree with Sagan. ‘The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand…and yes, ‘it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.’
Again, interestingly if one studies that one, that lunatic, who claims to have begun it all, from let’s say, ‘The Big Bang’ outward and even now, ever-expanding from one possible multiverse to yet another, or, in the other direction, to the ‘micro-cosmos’ found within each living thing as science discovers the wonders of life itself. Both have the same intrinsic design elements showing us that there are existing galaxies both very near and yet to be explored far beyond.
We humans, however, often, when, through our minds, we have been given to rationally think and ask questions and make choices, have given ourselves too much credit for the discoveries and results we enjoy. We as humans unpeel the onionskins of what has been laid in mystery before us like the ultimate Russian doll.
For instance, last night on this ‘dusty lonely blue dot,’ in Ontario, Canada, along with other areas of North America, a Texas low blew through where we all received millions of tons of snow that blanketed our properties and provided incredible beauty when left untouched. Thankfully, I finally got shoveled out after two days.
Like the planets, which I assume, is maybe named by someone somewhere, we here on planet earth, each of us has our own unique ‘named’ fingerprints. Each snowflake has a completely unique design—trillions of them, even across the acres out my window. All of our eight billion humans and, yes, counting also have special uniqueness in multiple ways. We are not delusional as is suggested; just lost accidental dust balls running to-and-fro until we add to the ‘dusty blue dot.’ Rather we are individually cherished, somewhere by someone, but with greater value than the snowflakes.
I have my own beliefs, obviously, having studied theology for decades. They are not based on mindless random brain chatter, but rather on solid historicity that blows away with a great quantity of other historical documented reality that we accept without question as having complete veracity.
To me, it’s much more a thing of joy to at least have a source for which to say ‘thank you’ when I see the snow through my camera lens or mix paint on my palette as I attempt to mimic on one-dimensional canvas the three-dimensional (at least) objects that pound with the beat of watery life and yes, a little dust. I am constantly grateful.