Meditation on Cassini

dotcassini-blog480Just stop for a moment and look at the picture above. It’s a picture of Earth as seen from the planet Saturn. The photo was taken by the Cassini Spacecraft yesterday. Just look at it for a minute. Look at those big beautiful rings of Saturn at the top of the frame. Saturn the planet that astrologers used to call the outer limit of the solar system.  Today we know that there are more planets and stars beyond Saturn. But they didn’t know that back then. Saturn the planet that rules limitations.

But now we’ve gone way beyond those limitations. Cassini is out there passing by Saturn, looking back at where it came from. Looking back at Earth. Home. Look down there below Saturn’s outer rings at that tiny white dot,  or is it light blue? That’s Earth!  A tiny dot spinning in an immense black void of space. Nothing around for millions of miles. Nothing! Just a silent blackness.

How does that make you feel? Huh? Seeing that the planet we live on, the place where we spend our time sweating out the details of life from day to day—the place where we live and die, where we yearn for things, fight for love, get our hearts broken, laugh and cry, win, lose, where things sometimes seem too big for us to handle, too hard to cope with, and sometimes too good to be true–how does it make you feel seeing that the place called Earth is such a small speck in a gigantic Universe? How does that make you feel? Really?

When you see how infinitesimally small this world is–this world we think of as the center of the Universe– does it give you pause? When you stare at all the emptiness out there, all that incomprehensible space, does it make you wonder? What is space? Why is it out there? Why are we floating around in it? And exactly where are we in the midst of all that space? Are we anywhere near the center of the Universe? Doesn’t look like it, does it?

You talk about a sense of wonder. When you see a picture like that you can’t help wondering. You can’t help asking yourself, what it’s all about? Why are we here on this little speck? How’d we all get here? Can’t somebody tell me? I want to know.

But after a while, that sense of wonder starts to fade. You grab a beer and sit down in front of the TV and watch a game. Or some thunderous movie about robots and zombies. And you go to bed. And next morning, it’s just another day. And you’re back out on the job. And its the same old thing. A miserable boss. Lousy co-workers, ready to stick a knife in your back first chance they get. You go home and have a fight with your old lady and the kids won’t stop yelling. And you turn on the TV news and see people rioting and killing each other everywhere. They kill for all sorts of reasons. Hate, love, religion, politics. You turn the TV off and get on the Internet and read some vitriolic column written by one sorehead or another and a moment later you’re writing in a comment, joining the fray. The cacophony of voices and violence rises to a deafening crescendo.

But out there, out there somewhere near Saturn, all it is is a little white dot. Or is it blue? And it’s so quiet. It really does make you wonder.

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