An Astronaut on Spaceship Earth

When our stewardship of Earth – our only home in the endless dark – is called into question, how will we answer?

Dear reader, in a moment I’m going to ask you to stop reading this essay.

No, I haven’t taken leave of my senses. I assure you there is a madness to my method.

I want you to stop reading this essay and just take a few moments to look at the image accompanying this particular selection of literary litter.

Take a few moments and LOOK at it. Take it in, allow your mind to free-associate for a few moments, and then come back. I’ll wait.

Welcome back. Now you may be wondering why I made such a peculiar request of you. The image is certainly well known. In fact, it’s one of the most famous images ever published by man.

It was taken as Apollo 8 emerged from the dark side of the moon on Christmas Eve, 1968. The crew, Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders, held a live broadcast from lunar orbit to describe what they were seeing.

It’s called, “Earthrise.”

Sadly this photo has lost some of its impact due to its ubiquity. We see it as pretty, but we often fail to percieve the significance of it.

Allow me, if you would be so groovy, to confess something. For a long time, I thought there was something “wrong” with me. The reason for my consternation over my psychological health was that when I looked at that photo, and others similar to it, I had a far stronger reaction to it.

Simply put, it brings me to near tears.

Now steady on my fine and decidedly unfeathered friends, before you break out your Sigmund Freud-issue Sanity Decoder Rings, I can assure you that I’m not mad. Well… not like that at any rate.

No, my reaction to that photo is based entirely on the profundity of it, on the implications it has for all of us carbon-based lifeforms. It’s an object lesson, a message to us all that says “You are here. You are ONLY here.”

I’ll give you a moment to rattle that little nugget about in your cranial cavities for a few temporal increments.

Consider that every thing that has ever happened in human history – every conflict, every peace treaty, every work of art, music, literature and theatre, every birth and death and every breath ever taken by the human animal – has occurred on that tiny blue and white marble.

Every human-shaped human – from Hitler to Mother Theresa, Amelia Earhart to Genghis Khan, Buddy Holly to Aristophenes, Hypatia to your Uncle Phil – owes their existence, for better or worse, to that fragile orb… all alone in the night.

When you see it from that perspective, when the mighty works of humanity can be compressed down to something that can be blocked from view with a single hand, the preciousness and fragility of our beloved Starship Earth becomes clear.

The responsibility to preserve this tiny oasis in the Dark becomes paramount.

Doesn’t it?

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