A fraction of a pale blue dot

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“Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors, so that in glory and triumph, they could become momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.”
Carl Sagan,
Pale Blue Dot:
A Vision of the
Human Future in Space

The quest for immortality — directly or indirectly —guides all human endeavours. Some court immortality through art and literature, others construct imposing edifices meant to withstand the tests of time and watch generation after generation go by. Yet others presume that ruling over the largest geographical territory would ensure their place in history’s hall of fame. The simple act of producing offspring is, in fact, considered a manifestation of life’s desire to further itself, a manifestation of human longing to remain alive and be remembered — the antithesis of the all-pervasive fear of death. For the fear of death is but an extension of the fear of sinking into oblivion.
In truth, however, the concept of immortality is a mere function of human longing, a function of the limitedness of our own existence. The geometric definition of a line is: a straight continuous extent of zero thickness, which extends infinitely in both directions. The line in reality, though, is an abstraction — each and every “existing” line is but a segment of the original, the infinite. The humble, every day line carries no semblance of infinity but we refuse to add the word segment to it. Doing so makes us feel better about our own segmented existence — makes us feel infinite as a line. All human quests, in the end, are about infinity.
The irony, though, as Carl Sagan points out, is that the planet earth itself is limited by the constraints of time and space — a mere speck in a nondescript galaxy from a remote corner of the universe. Our existence is, what Sagan calls, the tiniest part of “a fraction of a dot.”
Time and space are the two planes between which we experience the universe. But the experience of both is dependent on the specific tiny dents of our momentary existence. Our lifespans mostly determine our understanding of time. For instance, take a small child, for whom the time span between two consecutive days is an unimaginably large one.
His understanding of time is limited to days, his grasp of weeks very obscure and the idea of months and years completely abstract. Very small timespans appear large to him because his life can be defined in days and months. But when you’ve been alive for decades, even a 10-year span doesn’t appear as large a time period. A century to us is a pretty long time indeed, but in the four-and-a-half-billion-year lifespan of the earth a century doesn’t even occupy the space-time equivalent of a single moment. Our endeavours for immortality then appear as naïve and laughable as the span of our lives compared to that of the earth — which is again equally tiny compared to the existence of the entire universe. “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark,” says Sagan.
And that ultimately brings us to the desire for supremacy, the bestial urge to conquer and subdue and ravage and pillage. The most terrifying despots and ideologies become an indiscernible speck in the fabric of time. “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.”
In the end, all that we would become is cosmic stardust. Does it not make sense therefore, to fill the present moment with light and love, for a moment is all that you would ever occupy?