Sunday, September 7, 2014

We Are Tiny - Thank Goodness

You might remember one of the most famous photos of our planet. It's often referred to as the Pale Blue Dot. Taken from the Voyager I space probe in 1990, it shows the entire planet Earth as a tiny pale blue speck, less than a pixel.

A friend of mine reminded me of this photo when she shared a video clip with Carl Sagan narrating the story of the Pale Blue Dot and its meaning. All we are, have been, and will ever be, all of human history, our wars and battles, our triumphs and failures, our love affairs, families, communities, arts, books, everything about being human takes place on this tiny speck of the vast universe.

The images and narration combine to create a beautiful story of both our insignificance and our importance.

As writers, we invest effort in capturing detail. The color of a leaf turning from green to gold to faded brown. The sound of rain pattering on a metal roof. The taste of corn bread made the right way, melting like golden honey in your mouth. The gentle caress of a lover tingling across warm skin. These details are important, as they carry our stories through the imaginations of our readers.

Yet, as Sagan says in the video clip, the perspective from outer space reinforces the significance of how we treat one another and our planet. In hindsight, An Alien's Guide to World Domination, my first novel, is about the same message.

That every once in a while, we need to step back and see our whole world as one small detail in the life of this boundless and ever-changing universe.

You can view the video clip here.

Elizabeth Fountain writes fiction about the humor of everyday life, often set in alternative universes just like our own, but different. You can find her books and read more of her thoughts about writing, baseball, music, and life at her author blog, Point No Point.


Big Mike said...

I'll offer another perspective. Each of us is but "a speck among seven billion grains of sand on the beach of humanity, yet the big guy made us individually unique as each snowflake in a confused blizzard, searching for our meaning and destiny." That's from one of my novels (g).

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Rhobin Lee Courtright said...

Your post serves as a reminder to everyone that this is the only tiny speck we have in the universe. We need to treat it better, take less for granted.

Liz Fountain said...

Nice, BM. That's what I love - both are true: we are tiny, and yet unique (and that's a lovely sentence!).

And thanks, Rhobin. I think so too.


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

As the universe expands, our lives shrink. Maybe that's why we are preoccupied with selfies and pleasure-seeking.

Someone tried to put it in perspective with this acerbic thought: "Earth is the insane asylum of the universe."

Olga Godim said...

Great post, Liz. It applies perfectly to writing. The details are good in writing, but we should limit them to the utterly important. Otherwise, most readers tend to skip them. I certainly do as a reader. It's hard though to learn this lesson as a writer. I want to describe the leaves under sunlight, the majestic mountains, etc. I should resist in the majority of cases.

Liz Fountain said...

Julie, that made me laugh! And Olga, I have a similar struggle to determine what details are essential. Thank goodness for great editing, too!