Saturday, October 20, 2012

In which your faithful writer gets philosophical...

You never know where you are going to come upon something that just blows you away with its message. That happened to me today when another knitter posted the follwing video over on a board at Ravelry. This is a slightly longer version of the same bit, with a little context at the beginning, with the narration from the audio book version of the book Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1994, Random House), by Carl Sagan:

Now, some people might argue that all the perspective given in this clip does is make us seem obscure, insignificant, and without meaning or purpose.

I don't think that is true. I think it points out an important truth. We are all here. "Every human being who ever was," as Carl Sagan puts it in this clip, has lived and died here. A few have left for a few days, weeks, or months and ventured out and down the street a little bit, cosmically speaking, but they started here and ended here, on planet Earth. We're all stuck here.

The Spaceship Earth meme got overdone in the 1960s and 1970s, as those few of us began to venture out beyond the Earth's atmosphere, so much so that it became a cliche. But, for all that, it isn't any less true. We are all, very literally, in the same boat. Every ethnic group, every religion, every nationality, has to share this little bit of living space. And the truth is, if we don't start learning to be nicer to each other - all of us - the boat is going to sink and we will all drown in our own animosities.

During the L.A. riots after four Los Angeles Police Department officers were acquitted of beating Rodney King during an arrest, Mr. King himself asked: "Can we all get along? Can we...can we get along?" And people laughed. The quote became a big joke. But it isn't very funny. As Nick Lowe wrote in a song from 1974, "What's so funny 'bout peace, love, and understanding?" How did we become so hard and cynical that asking for those things is treated as stupid?

Historically, we haven't been very nice to each other. I know that. But you would think that as species, we would have learned a little bit in all the millennia that we've been "civilized". But, no. We still maim and torture and kill each other for the stupidest things. One of our US presidential candidates recently and famously expressed his feeling that some of his fellow human beings are not entitled to food, shelter, and health care, just because they don't have as much money as he does and haven't had the fortune in life that he has had. Kids regularly bully each other on the playground just because they look different or talk different or are interested in different things.

Why haven't we learned to be excellent to each other, rather than being cruel and petty and nasty over the most insignificant things?

Does asking that make me hopelessly naive? Doesn't matter to me. I'm just fine with being a naive idealist. So much better than being a jerk.

Hat tip, by the way, to AZHikerChick, over on Ravelry, for turning me on to the video from Pale Blue Dot.

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