I remember first seeing the image below in 2013, taken of Earth by the Cassini spacecraft as it orbited Saturn. I remember sitting there and staring at it for a good ten minutes, contemplating the unbelievable distance between the two objects. If you can’t quite make Earth out, it’s that small shining dot just below the centre of the photo, hence, why this photo is sometimes referred to as the pale blue dot. Now, I happened to find it almost instantly because I have the eyes of a HAWK, what with all those years of practice scanning for Waldo and all kinds of weird shit in I Spy, but, to the untrained eye, our planet almost fades quietly away into the background of cosmic abyss.
What’s outrageous though, is that this image, the Cassini photograph, isn’t even the real and true pale blue dot, or furthest picture we’ve taken of our planet. Thanks to the GOAT, Carl Sagan, it’s actually this one, taken by NASA’s Voyageur 1 spacecraft as it was leaving the solar system in 1989, four billion miles from earth.
Leaving the fucking solar system.
That’s something humans made. Now that shit is awesome.
Anyway, I chose to go with something a little more aesthetically appealing for this blog and when I say a little, I clearly mean a lot more appealing. A lot, lot, lot. Actually, so much so, that it could be borderline fake. Like NASA could have just made up the idea that they were launching Cassini in 1997, waited 20 years and then photoshopped this stunning image and said: “Look! This is what Earth looks like from Saturn, isn’t it cooooooool?” And nobody would have said nothing.
I do, in fact, know that the Cassini image is real and that Saturn actually looks like that. That’s literally what it looks like. If you took your shitty iPhone into space and travelled 900 million miles to Saturn, you too would be able to take a similar photo. To me, that’s BANANAS. I think about how amazed I get by the simplest, most nonsensical garbage here on earth, meanwhile there’s a gargantuan, kinda tan-yellowish ball of hydrogen and helium, 227,349 miles in circumference (!) with these crazy rings and shit, just out there floating around in space in all its breathtaking glory. And I’m here still in awe I can order a half-chicken dinner to my door using my phone while I’m taking a dump.
But that’s actually what this blog is all about! And what I mean by that, is understanding everything in terms of relativity. Relativity. Not exactly like what legendary science man, Albert Einstein, was talking about in his theory of relativity, but yeah, kind of – sort of – like that. This relativity, though, focuses more on our approach, that is to say humans’ approach, as to what we are and how we tend to think of ourselves. This is an exercise that’s probably not new to anyone reading this, but it’s a simple way to gain perspective on what’s really going on around you.
For example, you don’t normally wake up in the morning, swear at your alarm, piss in the shower and then think to yourself “gee, it’s pretty fucked up that we’re all on a giant, round, rotating rock, whizzing through the vacuum of space, in orbit around a massive flaming ball,” and then just go eat your shitty bran flake cereal and head out to your soul-sucking job at the Condom Shack. Or most don’t anyway. Most people wake up and think about all the stuff they have to do that day, all the things that are relative to them. Not normally the things that they are relative to.
It’s as sobering an exercise as there is. My boy, Jean-Paul Sartre, the famous/infamous French philosopher from the mid-twentieth century, touched on this while discussing some of his many thoughts about existentialism. Here is Sartre on the absurdity of things:
One: Things are weirder than we think
Sartre is acutely attentive to moments when the world reveals itself as far stranger and more uncanny than we normally admit; moments when the logic we ascribe to it day-to-day becomes unavailable, showing things to be highly contingent and even absurd and frightening.
Sartre’s first novel – Nausea, published in 1938 – is full of evocations of such moments. At one point, the hero, Roquentin, a 30-year-old writer living in a fictional French seaside town, is on a tram. He puts his hand on the seat, but then pulls it back rapidly. Instead of being the most basic and obvious piece of design, scarcely worth a moment’s notice, the seat promptly strikes him as deeply strange; the word ‘seat’ comes loose from its moorings, the object it refers to shines forth in all its primordial oddity, as if he’s never seen one before – and its material and slight swell makes him think of the repulsive bloated belly of a dead donkey. Roquentin has to force himself to remember that this thing beside him is something for people to sit on. For a terrifying moment, Roquentin has peered into what Sartre calls the ‘absurdity of the world.’
Courtesy the philosophersmail.com
I guess my thought on relativity lies somewhere in between what Sartre is saying and where most of us are now. Like you don’t have to be a fucking weirdo about everything, freaking out on trams in fake French towns, while walking around constantly contemplating your very existence. I mean, that’s really a monumental task to ask of a junior sales associate at the Condom Shack. However, I do believe that most of us have the capacity to demonstrate the brevity and awareness of a civilization that is beginning to grasp our place within the universe.
These shots of awe — which is a fantastic term I’m stealing from the great Jason Silva — that prompt people to stop and wonder about their place in the universe, are all around us. Just like the Cassini photograph, they serve as a reminder that we are but a pale blue dot in the super-massive cosmic ocean. And that’s not something I’m saying to try and scare people, because, I wouldn’t want you to view it as a scary or threatening thing. Really, I would hope that most people reading this would take a quick moment to sit back, look at the Cassini photograph, close their eyes and feel amazed about what it is that they are a part of.
So I guess that’s my ridiculous, roundabout way of explaining why I chose that particular image. Every time I start writing words in a blog post (keep in mind this is my first!) I think about all this other information I want to touch on or include. I have to force myself to stop being an idiot, or else we’d end up with a fucking ridiculous mishmash of words and quotes and all kinds of shit. So, I’m going to stop here for now, but know that I’ll have a lot more to share from a variety of incredibly knowledgable sources who think in ways I could only ever imagine.
Anyways, keep reading if you’re interested or go back to jerking off to Instagram or pictures of cats or whatever people do on the fucking internet these days.
What a world!
Just to be transparent, should I be impressed with myself that the word count has me over 1,000? I haven’t written anywhere close to that amount since I was semi-plagiarizing night-before essays in my university days. Actually whatever, fuck you if you’re not impressed. I’m impressed with myself. Thanks for reading.