Carl Sagan’s remarks on Pale Blue Dot are among the most iconic humanist words ever spoken. They serve well at any Solstice gathering.
I find that they work best just after or just before the Moment of Darkness, when the room will already be dark enough that you can easily see the Earth on the projector screen. It also tends to be the right emotional moment for the piece – a fragile hope cradled in the darkness, a reminder that the world is up to us, but that we have each other.
At the New York Solstice, I accompany the speech with this video, using CGI footage from Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos, and musical piece “Window” by the Album Leaf.
In 1977, humanity sent a small extension of itself into the cosmos. A tiny metal avatar of our curiosity and our goodwill.
Thirteen years later, as the Voyager 1 probe left our solar system, Carl Sagan asked NASA to take one final photograph of the Earth before it disappeared into the darkness.
The photo was taken, and transmitted 6 billion kilometers back to Earth. Sagan had this to say about it:
Look at that.
That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.
That is 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,
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,
on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth 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 momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.
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
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 lovely 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, 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.
[The last candle is extinguished]