Monday, December 07, 2009

Takes My Breath Away

Every now and then, I read something on the Writer's Almanac that just takes my breath away. This site is Garrison Keillor's daily offering of "it happened on this day" accompanied by a poem. Just the fact that someone reads a poem daily on the radio is worth the listen.

But it is also good to be reminded of events that have occurred on the day we are about to live. Of course, December 7 is remembered in the United States as "the day that will live in infamy." Sixty-eight years ago, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt uttered that memorable phrase as he conveyed the news to the nation that the United States would be entering World War II.

Now, here we are 68 years later, entering--no, make that continuing--another war, this one in Afghanistan.

So one of the other things that occurred this day takes my breath away.

Let the Writer's Almanac tell you:

"It was on this day in 1972 that astronauts on the Apollo 17 spacecraft took a famous photograph of the Earth, a photo that came to be known as "The Blue Marble." Photographs of the Earth from space were relatively new at this time.

(Previously) on Christmas Eve of 1968, the astronauts on the Apollo 8 mission, orbiting the moon, took a photo with the gray, craggy surface of the moon in the foreground and the bright blue Earth coming up behind, only half of it visible. That photo was called "Earthrise," and it really shook people up because it made the Earth look so fragile, and because the photo was taken by actual people, not just a satellite."
Here is that famous wonderful photo of "The Blue Marble".

I had initially posted another photo from space of the "blue marble" taken in the year 2002. My nephew pointed out that the photo above, showing the continent of Africa, is the original.

Take a look at the photo below for a minute. Stop what you are doing, center your mind, and just look at it. Long. Hard. Thoughtfully.

Do you see what portion of the earth we see? It is the subcontinent of India portion, with Afghanistan at the left.

From space, could you see Taliban? Warring tribal factions? Could you see religious strife and divisions? What could you see from this distance that shows the hand of humanity? Maybe, just maybe the effects of environmental destruction, but other than that--nothing. Not one thing that humanity has done would be visible.

Yet this "blue marble" is our mother. Our father. Our vessel as we travel through the vastness of space. Why do we despoil it? Why do we turn against ourselves? Why do we not simply cherish and nurture and protect this lovely lovely shining blue marble without which we would simply vanish?

Maybe you remember the public television show "Big Blue Marble"? Our son watched it daily. It had a wonderful sweet theme song, the words of which capture in a simple way this sentiment:

The earth's a Big Blue Marble
When you see it from out there
The sun and moon declare
Our beauty's very rare

Folks are folks and kids are kids
We share a common name
We speak a different way
But work and play the same

We sing pretty much alike
Enjoy spring pretty much alike
Peace and love we all understand
And laughter, we use the very same brand

Our differences, our problems
From out there there's not much trace
Our friendships they can place
While looking at the face
Of the Big Blue Marble in space

Couldn't have said it better myself.


Anvilcloud said...

A good reminder for this consumptive season.

Ginger said...

I always loved that "Big Blue Marble" song! Thanks for the reminder. I have found that even when I'm up 30,000 feet in an airplane, I get that same perspective. How is it that the teeny tiny people way down there manage to make ugliness and hatred so huge? And while it's so small, the vastness of our earth also hits me....

Vagogan said...

At the risk of nitpicking, I think the picture you've posted is a more recent shot (perhaps even a composite rather than a single photograph). The original picture has a view of Antarctica, Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula.

That photograph has been my desktop background for a while, and continues to be awe-inspiring and humbling.

In a similar vein, with an even wider perspective, I have to point out the Pale Blue Dot photograph, taken by the Voyager spacecraft in 1990, after a 13-year flight that took it beyond the orbit of Pluto, 3.7 billion miles from Earth. From that distance, Earth appears as a tiny and barely-visible speck, the "Pale Blue Dot" in the name, which Carl Sagan expounded on with some eloquence.

Climenheise said...

I suppose an obvious point is that the real ugliness of our world lies within the human heart. The world is indeed beautiful, whether close up through a microscope or from far away seen as a marble or dot. I find that I have to go behind the earth to the Creator to appreciate creation's beauty fully -- or to deal with the ugliness we introduce into creation.

KGMom said...

Well, my nephew Vaughn is correct. The photo that the Writer's Almanac linked to is in fact one taken in 2002.
Vaughn's link for the original photo takes you to the Wikipedia page explaining when the original photo was taken, and shows it to you.
Also go and see the PALE BLUE DOT link he has. That really puts things in perspective in terms of how minute in the vastness of the universe is our little planet home.
Oh, my--even more breathtaking a view.

Genny said...

I've always loved this photo of the earth. The world we live on is so incredibly beautiful, almost beyond description. And yet as real as it feels to us down here, when viewed from eternity, we're only a speck in the vast infinity. Thank you for posting this.

Ruth said...

I often think of who I might be if I had been born to a family of another race or religion. Am I special because I happened to be born in a first world country? I think not.

Dog_geek said...

Definitely breathtaking. But sometimes a little discouraging to think how far humanity still needs to go if we are to survive.

Jayne said...

Seeing it from that view does sort of put things into perspective, no doubt.

JeanMac said...

Wonderful, thoughtful post, Donna.

Unknown said...

Yes. Ditto JeanMac, Donna. Donna