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.
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 the 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 lonely 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, at least 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.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
In the few years since I’ve started to travel this world, I’ve found myself changing. The cramped cynical worldview of a man who’d only seen life through the narrow prism of the restaurant kitchen had altered. I’d been so many places, I’d met so many people from wildly divergent backgrounds, countries, and cultures.
Everywhere I’d been, I’d been, as in Beruit, treated so well. I’d been the recipient of so many random acts of kindness from strangers and I’d begun to think that no matter where I went or who I sat down with, that food and a few drinks seemed always to bring people together. That this planet was filled with basically good and decent people doing the best they could, if frequently under difficult circumstances. That the human animal was perhaps a better and nicer species than I had once thought.
I’d begun to believe that the dinner table was the great leveler, where people from opposite sides of the world could always sit down and talk and eat and drink and if not solve all the worlds problems, at least find, for a time, common ground.
Now, I’m not so sure. Maybe the world’s not like that at all. Maybe in the real world—the one without cameras and happy food and travel shows—everybody, the good and the bad together, are all crushed under some terrible wheel.
I hope, I really hope, that I’m wrong about that.