My first professional publication emerged earlier this month in Crossed Genres Magazine, Issue 7. The Parched Lands delves into the tangled issues of race, tracking, high-stakes testing, and creativity starvation that run through America’s public school systems.
When the bell rang at the end of class, Amanthi was crashing from a dopamine high. She raised her slight, brown hand as her thin body shook, and when her arm brushed against her long, black hair she felt the slick dampness of sweat.
Mr. Daveys was moving around the classroom helping students disconnect from their desks, congratulating or reprimanding as appropriate based on measured performance for the day.
Amanthi could feel that something was wrong, but found herself unable to articulate any words though the shaking of her body. Kassidi, sitting next to her, looked over and noticed her wan trembling, and spoke up.
“Mr. Daveys” Kassidi said sharply. “Something’s wrong with Amanthi!” The teacher glanced up from his IV work and in a moment rushed over, fussing over Amanthi and checking her forehead. He held up a datapad and allowed its cameras to analyze her. The red eye of the infrared and the black eye of the optical glass stared at Amanthi, and she suddenly felt weak and ill.
This gorgeous photograph of our planet Earth, was taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which is orbiting the planet Saturn almost 900 million miles away. Puts everything in perspective right?
From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again 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: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, 1997 reprint, pp. xv–xvi
If I’m ever hard up for writing ideas, for thinking about the stories that need to be written, I think I will stare at this photograph for awhile.