a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam

My next post was supposed to be about furniture arrangements and home decorating, but I’ve stalled big time. I’m hoping this week will be more productive as many things are sliding here on the home-front. Had a very annoyingly busy week and then when the time finally came to get back to finish moving the furniture I became glued to the TV, trying to comprehend all that was and still is happening in Japan. Sometimes the mundane things in life start to feel pointless. But then I guess that’s the horror of it, so many people with their lives interrupted or cut short – it’s overwhelming to try to take in… I don’t know anyone there, but I know that each life lost was the most important person in the world to somebody, and for them my heart breaks.

“Japan’s recent massive earthquake, one of the largest ever recorded, appears to have moved the island by about eight feet (2.4 meters), the US Geological Survey said.”

“The quake probably shifted the position of Earth’s axis about 6.5 inches, said Richard Gross, a geophysicist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge.”

These numbers boggle my mind. In one sense we’re safely spinning through space on our relatively little blue spaceship, but when the planet starts readjusting itself it abruptly reminds us of how precious this life is, and how precarious in the grand scheme of things, whatever that scheme ultimately proves to be.

I feel something like a Who on the speck of dust in Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who! “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” We feel so very small in the face of this. Such a pale little blue dot, our earth. But such a cataclysmic upheaval of our big beautiful and often frightening planet.

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.
~ Carl Sagan
(Pale Blue Dot)

As I’m writing this some of the lyrics of Pig, one of Dave Matthews’ older songs, one of my favorites, come back to me with added poignancy:

Isn’t it strange
How we move our lives for another day
Like skipping a beat
What if a great wave should
Wash us all away
Just thinking out loud
Don’t mean to dwell on this dying thing
But looking at blood
It’s alive right now
Deep and sweet within
Pouring through our veins
Intoxicate moving wine to tears
Drinking it deep
Then an evening spent dancing
It’s you and me
This love will open our world
From the dark side we can see a glow of something bright
There’s much more than we see here
Don’t burn the day away
~ Dave Matthews
♫ (Pig) ♫

All we have is this moment.  Let us not burn our days away…

10 thoughts on “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam”

  1. The devastation in Japan is hard to fathom. All of the videos of the tsunami are surreal. We feel so big sometimes, and yet we’re so small. And we take so much for granted, sometimes without even realizing it. ‘There’s much more than we see here, Don’t burn the day away’ reminds me of how important it is to appreciate the simple things in life and how my aunt always said ‘Every day is a gift.’

    1. Surreal is a good word to describe the feeling… Your aunt is very wise, it IS the simple things that make us drink life in deeply, a cup of tea with a friend, watching two baby red squirrels play on a tree’s branches, feeling the quickening of our first baby, all such precious gifts…

  2. Barbara,

    Comprehension may never come, understanding may be days, weeks, months away. Yet life it is to live each day at it fullest, even if the fullest is to watch the TV and the events of the world around us. Or as you say, have tea with a friend, a walk in the forest, or on the beach, on top of a Mountain, yet don’t just walk or watch, Be. Be Part with you heart, with you wholeness and healing. Sharing Love, Being Love!

    I am Love, Jeff

    1. When you mention walking in the woods it made me think of one of the lessons the woods teaches me. There are mighty trees who have fallen and are sprouting mushrooms as they slowly decay and go back to the earth. Death and decay alongside of new saplings and joy. In nature it is all mixed together. When I was little I couldn’t bear to be happy knowing somewhere in the world someone else was suffering. But the woods taught me that this is natural, and somehow it makes it easier to appreciate being with life’s gifts while others are coping with loss.

      Thank you for being and sharing Love, Jeff!

    1. I wonder what Carl Sagan might have said about all this. Today I heard the island of Japan moved 13 feet. And now the nuclear situation seems insidiously ominous. But tonight on the news, remarkably enough, people were shown already starting to clean up, melt snow for water, and make the best of things.

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