I frequently find myself on the internet, clicking from link to link, reading article after article about a variety of subjects. I’m amazed at how interconnected things are and how the internet can help us to see those connections if we simply look at our browsing history.
Anyway, I don’t even remember how I got there but I ended up on a Quora article about images that would change the way a person sees the world after viewing them. There were images of natural disasters, inspiring events, etc. There were also a lot of Pale Blue Dot and Earthrise photos. But the one that captured my interest was the Hubble’s Ultra Deep Field image.
The idea here is that astronomers picked an area of space in which there was no light visible to the naked eye, and then they zoomed in on it to find thousands of galaxies. Not stars, but galaxies, each containing thousands, maybe even millions, of stars. Mind = blown. Where the naked eye saw nothing, Hubble’s lenses captured unimaginable mass. There are few images that can make you feel so very huge and tiny all at once. Here we are, a tiny speck among the galaxies and stars, but a colossus in comparison to the microscopic beings and even tinier quantum particles.
A few link clicks and I was over on Reddit where a poster had shared their frustration of being born too late to explore our own planet but too soon to explore the universe. There were many comments, some in support of his or her frustrations and some exhorting us all to be grateful to live in our current time period. But one Redditor’s comment really hit home for me. It gives me a glimpse into a greater purpose, given our unique position in the history of mankind:
“I’m a huge fan of the image as well, and have spent plenty of time staring at it in awe. But I think perhaps it is you who needs some perspective, not everyone else. Lacking access to food and water is not a minor problem. Bombs dropping on your neighborhood are not a ‘domestic squabble’. These are realities for many people on earth, and until we figure out how to solve these problems we cannot devote many resources to problems outside our planet.
You can’t give a picture to a starving child and fill its belly. You can’t give it to a bomber pilot and convince him to disobey his orders. You can’t give it to a landlord to pay your rent. If we want there to be a future where we explore the rest of the universe, we first need to spend some time thinking about ourselves and our planet. You were not born in the wrong time, you were born in the most important time in humanity’s history. While we still exist on one planet but have the power to destroy its habitability we are in a critical phase of our existence. We need dreamers, sure, but most of all we need people of action who can solve the problems of today, not the problems of tomorrow.”
An interesting compromise – perhaps this period of preparation is so much more important in the grand scheme…we act like it is inevitable that our race will travel between stars and other worlds as a peaceful, scientific, ethical, caring people when there is so much pain, greed, suffering, hate, war, etc. at the current time. Don’t we want to eliminate those things before we venture out into the cosmos? Our focus has to begin here on our current home. We need to prepare humanity for it’s future…and we do that by creating a vision for that desired future and then working to build up all of humanity, not just the First World.