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"The Pale Blue Dot"

October 11, 2017

“[Palizzolo’s] The Pale Blue Dot might convey the potential unity of all those on earth, or perhaps their shared loneliness.”

―Susan Apel, Art Critic & Writer

Whenever I need a little perspective on life I look at the night sky. During the day, the universe's facade becomes shrouded by the sun and a pale blue sky. At night, one can truly see and feel how small and insignificant we are in the cosmos. Too many people seem to have forgotten that universe was not created for us nor are we at its center. Many believe they're kin to the sun and that all matter in the universe is meant to revolve around them. We've lost all perspective.


Lately, I have been trying to soak up as much science (specifically astrophysics) as I can. When I came across Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot photograph and quote, my scale and position in the cosmos hit me like a ton of bricks. On February 14, 1990, Carl Sagan convinced NASA to turn the camera on Voyager 1 around one last time, for one last look at home. This famous photograph captured our planet from approximately 3.7 billion miles away suspended in a ray of sunlight.

"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 civilization, 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 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. 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.

 

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 harbor 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.”

 

― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, 1994

 

While I was painting The Pale Blue Dot I was thinking about my own frailty, the vulnerability of Earth, and the weaknesses of the human race. I also questioned how anyone could fail to understand that we are not titans in the cosmic arena, but rather miniscule specks of life floating among the stars, the real giants. We are inhabiting a planet that created us, not the other way around. Gone is the respect we should have for one another, our planet, and ourselves. We're heading down a dark road that lacks higher intelligence and enlightenment. A dark road composted of only the purest of black and the purest of white. What happened to all the shades of gray? There are so few things in life that don't require at the very least of touch of gray.

Presently, we are so blinded by identity politics, technology, rhetoric (from all sides of the aisle), hatred, and fear that we are forgetting the most important fact: WE are all in this together. Truly understanding that concept has the potential to save us from self-destruction and from destroying our home, the only home we have ever known: The Pale Blue Dot.

Alison Palizzolo, The Pale Blue Dot, 2017, acrylic spray paint, liquid acrylics, 36 x 36 inches.

 

 

 

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