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.
Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It's just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for joy.
Photographer Yousuf Karsh and his wife were having lunch with astronaut Neil Armstrong after a photo session. Armstrong politely questioned the couple about the many different countries they had visited. "But, Mr. Armstrong," protested Mrs. Karsh, "you've walked on the moon. We want to hear about your travels."
"But that's the only place I've ever been," replied Armstrong apologetically.
A poor man was so distressed at how small and crowded his house was that he went to see his rabbi for advice. The rabbi told him to go home and move his goat into the house, then to come visit the rabbi again in a week. The man did as he was told and returned to the rabbi a week later.
"How is it now?" asked the rabbi.
"Impossible," said the man.
The rabbi instructed the man to go home and move all his chickens into the house, then to return again in a week. A week later the man was banging on the rabbi's door.
"How is it now?" asked the rabbi.
"Impossible," the man replied. "I cannot go on like this."
The rabbi told the man to go home, take the chickens and the goat out of the house, and return again in a week. Once more the man did as instructed. The next week the man stood at the rabbi's door with a broad grin and a well-rested manner.
"So," the rabbi said, "now how is it?"
"A blessing on you, Rabbi," the man said. "My life is so much better. I don't know how to thank you.