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Pale Blue Dot - a message from the cosmos
Published:  Aug 23, 2016 8:12 AM
Updated: 8:23 AM

COMMENT I'm sure the universe is full of intelligent life. It's just been too intelligent to come here - Arthur C Clarke (writer).

The curtain has fallen on another congregation of Olympians. For us, the glitter of gold remains elusive.

But there was a silver lining. This was our best performance to date.

The Malaysian badminton team delivered three silver medals, with the men’s doubles pair coming within a hair’s breadth of the Midas Touch.

Apart from their on-court accomplishments, the national shuttlers were also credited with what happened off-the-court, some 16,000 kilometres from Rio.

They were heralded for uniting Malaysians, at least once every four years, who are otherwise divided by politics, race, religion and so forth.

In other words, racquets and shuttlecocks succeeded where others, including politicians, failed.

But even then, certain news reports on the mixed doubles pair being unable to win gold ignited another brabble, which, as expected, centred around race once again.

And to counter the "racist publications", some commentators chose to indulge in racist remarks themselves on the social media. Such is the paradox.

After the men’s singles final match, I decided to launch myself into space to drown the disappointment.

And so, I tuned into a programme on science and space exploration.

The observable universe has the ability to put things into perspective, by reminding us humans of how insignificant we are in comparison to the grand scheme of things.

It makes one wonder what is the point in bickering about issues such as race and religion. It also lands a sharp blow to the ego. In short, it is a humbling experience.

Words of Carl Sagan

After Voyager 1 completed its primary mission and was exiting the solar system, astronomer and author Carl Sagan requested the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) to take one last photograph of Earth, on Feb 14, 1990.

Taken from a distance of about six billion kilometres, the photograph showed the Earth as a tiny dot against the vastness of space.

The photograph was called ‘Pale Blue Dot’. And below are the words of Carl Sagan:

"Look again at 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 civilisation, 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 harbour 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.

This article is written by RK ANAND, who is a member of the Malaysiakini Team.