An Astronaut on Spaceship Earth

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?

Clockwork Philosophy

We Are One

#Create365 – January 5, 2019

Ladies and gentlebeings, I have a passion for words. Hardly a surprise I grant you, but the form that passion takes may be somewhat surprising. I’m not just enamoured with “pretty” writing – words that are clever and sound nice rolling off the tongue. My heart sings for powerful writing – words that speak to meanings far deeper than their literal interpretations would suggest.

I also love discovering words that convey wisdom and profundity, especially in unusual media, places often overlooked by others.

I hope you’ll allow for just a moment to “trip the geek fantastic” and share something with you that I believe carries wisdom far beyond its original intended purpose.

On February 4, 1998, an episode of the science fiction series Babylon 5 aired for the first time. This episode, called The Paragon of Animals, was written by the show’s creator, J. Michael Straczynski.

I won’t go into detail about the episode as it would require a great deal of backstory from the show itself, but it talked about the creation of an alliance of worlds. Think of it as something like the United Nations. This alliance needed a Declaration of Principles to govern its actions and mandate.

While we did not see the entire declaration, we were treated to a reading of its preamble, and the words penned by Straczynski and by extension “written” by the character G’Kar are incredibly powerful, and meaningful for our modern times.

The universe speaks in many languages, but only one voice.

The language is not Narn, or Human, or Centauri, or Gaim or Minbari.

It speaks in the language of hope.

It speaks in the language of trust.

It speaks in the language of strength and the language of compassion.

It is the language of the heart and the language of the soul.

But always it is the same voice.

It is the voice of our ancestors, speaking through us, and the voice of our inheritors, waiting to be born.

It is the small, still voice that says, “We are one.”

No matter the blood, no matter the skin, no matter the world, no matter the star:

“We are one”

No matter the pain, no matter the darkness, no matter the loss, no matter the fear:

“We are one.”

Here, gathered together in common cause, we agree to recognize this singular truth and this singular rule: That we must be kind to one another.

Because each voice enriches us and ennobles us, and each voice lost diminishes us.

We are the voice of the Universe, the soul of creation, the fire that will light the way to a better future.

We are one.

What if similar words were spoken with passion and honesty at a convention of the world’s leaders? Forget the conventions and niceties of diplomacy, what if we simply spoke in this way? With simple elegance and basic kindness as the underlying foundation?

Can you honestly imagine any of our current leaders, regardless of their place on the political spectrum, speaking these words AND MEANING THEM?

No… me either sadly.

Some will argue that such language would never work. They contend that humans are too flawed, too ambitious, for such a concept as this to ever take root. It’s dismissed as naive, or even childish.

Perhaps it is. But then, have we ever, honestly tried it? And if we’ve never tried, how then do we know it would never work? Humans may be accused of many things, but omniscience is not one of them.

These words were written for a science fiction series, something that most would dismiss as frivolous entertainment. And yet, those 200+ words speak with more power, more truth… and more HUMANITY, than most of the carefully crafted speeches to ever come out the mouths of the world’s leaders.

There is so much hate, distrust, lies, half-truths and opportunistic interpretations to be found in today’s society. In a world where governing bodies attempt to ban words such as fetus, transgender, vulnerable, entitlement, science-based, evidence-based and even diversity from being used in public discourse, or cause them to be used as terms of division, it can be easy to lose hope. However, there is also an astounding amount of love, kindness, joy and wisdom to be found, if we choose to look for it.

Allow me to conclude with the words of another character from Babylon 5, Ambassador Delenn, played by the incomparable Mira Furlan:

“We are all born as molecules in the hearts of a billion stars. Molecules that do not understand politics or policies or differences. Over a billion years, we foolish molecules forget who we are and where we came from. In desperate acts of ego, we give ourselves names, fight over lines on maps, and pretend that our light is better than everyone else’s. The flame reminds us of the piece of those stars that lives on inside us. The spark that tells us: ‘You should know better.’ The flame also reminds us that life is precious as each flame is unique. When it goes out, it’s gone forever. And there will never be another quite like it.”

I suppose, in the end, whether in our glory or in our folly…

We truly are one.