Pale Blue Dot
Today’s meeting at Colac was a little different from the norm. I invited the Colac City Band to come and provide music. I might talk about that another time—suffice it to say, we had a great time.
I didn’t intentionally pick a theme, but most of the music I chose seemed to refer to God’s creation and how it points to his glory. I followed this theme in my sermon. I showed a picture of the earth which was taken by the Voyager 1 space craft in 1990, when it was about four billion miles away.
The earth is that pale blue dot. I’ve circled it so you can see it. A trick of the light (the sun was just out of the shot) meant that it looks like the earth is in the middle of a sunbeam.
Carl Sagan once said of this picture:
We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every 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.
If you look carefully, you might see yourself. What were you doing on February 14, 1990?
When I see this photo, I think about how big the universe is. Or, how small we are.
Of course, this is just a matter of scale. If you were to stand next to a rock 8000 meters tall, you’d be forgiven for thinking nothing could be larger. Yet that rock stands on an even larger continent… which is just a small part of that pale blue dot, which is nothing compared to the sun it orbits, which itself is but a speck in a not so big galaxy.
On the other hand, next time a mosquito bites you have a look before you kill it. It’s tiny. It’s hard to imagine how things could be much smaller. But again, in it’s proboscis live parasites (which hopefully aren’t dangerous!). On those parasites live bacteria, which might host virii, which contain DNA, which are composed of genes, which are built with molecules, which are collections of atoms, which are made of all those sub-atomic particles New Scientist loves to write about.
God is in those small things. If you were to keep shrinking and shrinking, or if you were to keep growing and growing you’d find God at every order of magnitude. To put it simply, God doesn’t care about scale.
That’s why a thousand years are as a day to God, and a day is as a thousand years. It’s why there are no big sins and small sins. It’s why God calls our foolishness wisdom and our wisdom foolishness. Like God, those things just are. It’s not that God has a different scale by which he measures. He simply transcends anything which we might think happens to be important.
So when you look at that pale blue dot, remember that God knows it (and everything on it) intimately. We are measured by him—and when we are found wanting, he gives us the grace to grow according to the one scale he cares about.