Day 13: Perspective

It seems, sometimes, that life is unbearably, irrevocably difficult. Or that everything is falling apart with no hope of falling together again. Or that the mistake you made is unforgivable and enormous. Or the person you wronged will never let you make it right. Or that the weight of the world will pivot on a challenging decision you have to make.

At times like these, perspective helps.

For such perspective, I like to return time and again to Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot.

Said Sagan: “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.” I would add, to deal more kindly with ourselves. Just as the pale blue dot is the only home we’ve ever known, each of us is the only self we will ever be. Be kind to you, too.

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 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. 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.

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, 1994

carl


The Universes Inside the Lighthouse by Pam StuckyP.S. Did you know you can read my entire first YA sci-fi adventure book, free, online? And if you’re a parent or educator, or just someone who enjoys activities, check out the free, thought-provoking, skill-building activities at the end of every chapter! The Universes Inside the Lighthouse (and subsequent books in the series) was inspired by my love of books like A Wrinkle In Time or shows like Doctor Who. It’s my own exploration and answer to the deep and sometimes unanswerable questions: what else is out there? What if we could meet aliens from other planets? What if everything were possible? What’s more, through the power of truth-through-fiction, The Universes Inside the Lighthouse addresses issues of loneliness and compassion and gives parents and educators an opening to discuss these challenging but important issues. I love this series so much and I hope you will too! Start reading chapter one here! And feel free to spread the word!


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Day Three: Seeking Outrage vs Seeking Peace

There is no better time to be alive than right now, if what you thrive on is outrage.

You barely have to look for it.

In terms of the current election cycle, you almost don’t have to do more than turn on your computer or TV to find something infuriating these days. The news cycle is non-stop, and the stories get more outrageous every day.

But it goes beyond that.

You can find outrage easily on social media, as well. Twitter is the most obvious culprit; if you’re on Twitter, you know. For others, it’s Facebook: checking the posts of that person who always writes about having a perfect life, when your own is so far from imperfect. Or maybe it’s the Instagram page of the person who you just know is a complete fraud, pretending everything’s amazing.

There’s even a term for it: hate-stalking. Following someone because their posts annoy you so much.

We say we want to be happy. But too often, we spend our time seeking out the very things that will put us in bad moods.

Why do we do these things? If outrage is so … well, enraging, then why do we do it?

In my opinion it’s because we want to feel something, and what we’re really feeling is too hard:

Disappointment.

Fear.

Uncertainty.

The sinking feeling that everyone else’s lives are so much better than ours.

The fear we will never be enough or have enough or do enough.

We hate feeling those things. We will do anything to not feel those!

Including seeking out those things that make us unhappy—just so we can feel something. So we can mask the deeper, more painful feelings, or maybe so we can get proof that no matter how bad our own lives are, someone else has failed at life, too.

But it just ends up making us feel worse.

So here’s a challenge: For today, you and me, let’s consciously avoid those things that enrage us. Let’s not click on that Facebook page or Twitter account of the person who drives us crazy. Let’s not go to the news site that we know will have a story (or ten) that will send our blood pressure to the moon.

Instead, let’s think about what makes us happy, what brings us joy, and purposely seek out those stories, images, places, experiences.

For me, one thing that works—and which I’ve been turning to a lot lately—is timelapse videos.

4K Fjordlapse Norway from Fjordlapse on Vimeo.

Side note on a couple of great sources for timelapse videos: Vimeo has dozens, if not hundreds, of spectacular videos. Simply search on “timelapse” and you’ll instantly find some great ones. The above video is on Vimeo, but I actually found it at timelapse.org, which also has a ton of great videos. Click on the “Videos and Tutorials” tab, then scroll down to “Subjects,” then pick your favorite and start watching. If you find a spectacular timelapse video somewhere, let me know in the comments!

An interesting thing happens when I watch timelapse videos. For the first minute or so I’m fidgety, not focusing, thinking about other things, like, “Is this good enough to share?” I don’t get into the videos. I’m impatient, waiting to move on.

But then, after a short while, I settle into the peace. Cares float away as I sink into the soothing music, the sublime images. I want it to never end.

We’ve become so used to instant gratification that we may now have to work to get to that point, to get past the first part, where we’re just doing it because we know we should, and give ourselves enough time to really start to feel the gratitude and the appreciation and the joy.

For you maybe it’s not timelapse videos. Maybe it’s cat videos. Maybe it’s old episodes of Whose Line Is It Anyway. Pictures of national parks. Trip reports from people who have traveled to places you want to visit one day. Inspirational podcasts (right now, I’m soaking up Marie Forleo podcasts!).

Or maybe it’s something that gets you completely away from your computer and out the door into this gorgeous world: a walk in a neighborhood park. A trip to find the nearest waterfall. A quest to discover a local labyrinth. A visit to a garden nursery.

Don’t you feel calmer already, just thinking about it?

If we’re going to seek things out, we may as well start seeking out things that are life-affirming rather than soul-destroying.


The Universes Inside the Lighthouse by Pam StuckyP.S. Did you know you can read my entire first YA sci-fi adventure book, free, online? And if you’re a parent or educator, or just someone who enjoys activities, check out the free, thought-provoking, skill-building activities at the end of every chapter! The Universes Inside the Lighthouse (and subsequent books in the series) was inspired by my love of books like A Wrinkle In Time or shows like Doctor Who. It’s my own exploration and answer to the deep and sometimes unanswerable questions: what else is out there? What if we could meet aliens from other planets? What if everything were possible? What’s more, through the power of truth-through-fiction, The Universes Inside the Lighthouse addresses issues of loneliness and compassion and gives parents and educators an opening to discuss these challenging but important issues. I love this series so much and I hope you will too! Start reading chapter one here! And feel free to spread the word!


Check out Pam’s books!

Join Pam’s mailing list!

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A road trip to the mountains: definitely life-affirming. Photo: Pam Stucky
A road trip to the mountains: definitely life-affirming. Photo: Pam Stucky