I was reading the 1937 science fiction classic Star Maker by British writer Olaf Stapledon when I came across this statement:
I perceived that I was on a little round grain or rock and metal, filmed with water and with air, whirling in sunlight and darkness. And on the skin of that little grain all the swarms of men, generation by generation, had lived in labor and blindness, with intermittent joy and intermittent lucidity of spirit. And all their history, with its folk-wanderings, its empires, its philosophies, its proud sciences, its social revolutions, its increasing hunger for community, was but a flicker in one day of the lives of stars.
It reminded me of Carl Sagan’s famous statement from his book Pale Blue Dot:
From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. 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.
Mr. Stapledon had only his imagination at hand when he pondered the role of humans. His book has been praised by numerous science fiction writers, including H. G. Wells, Stanisław Lem, and Arthur C. Clarke.
Mr. Sagan was fortunate to have an image from Voyager I that clearly made this same point. We need the combined powers of dreamers and scientists as we face this awesome universe.
Extra: For more background on the image above, visit NASA’s site 10 Things You Might Not Know About Voyager’s Famous ‘Pale Blue Dot’ Photo.