The Wide Angle of Beauty
In this episode Mr. B takes a look at how narrowly society has trained us to view reality, he provides an example of what it means to view reality from a much wider angle, and Mr. B outlines some of the reasons why it might be a good idea for listeners to begin cultivating the discipline required to view reality from the widest possible perspective.
Part I: The Narrow Lens of Misery...
Michael D. Higgins
"This acceptance of inevitability in our lives is consistent ... with the suggestion that there is but one vision of the economy, an end of history, the death of ethics, and an appropriate individualism that eschews solidarity and any transcendent public values."
Mr. B's Questions...
1. Have you, like so many of my students, been conditioned by society to accept the inevitability of seeing and thinking in one way only?
2. Can you think of any realistic alternatives to the way that society is presently organized or the way that we've been trained to carry on with life?
3. How much freedom do you have - really - if all you see, all you know, and all you can imagine ... has been reduced to one, just one way of viewing reality?
Part II: The Pale Blue Dot...
This is the iconic "Pale Blue Dot," Voyager I, 14 February 1990.
Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot, Official Video
"It was just a little dot, about two pixels big, three pixels big, so not very large.... You know, I still get chills down my back because here was our planet, bathed in this ray of light, and it just looked incredibly special."
"Consider ... 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."
"For the first time in all of time, men have seen the Earth. Seen it not as continents or oceans from the little distance of a hundred miles or two or three, but seen it from the depths of space; seen it whole and round and beautiful and small.... To see the Earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold - brothers who know that they are truly brothers."
Earthrise, Apollo 8, 24 December 1968
Part III: The Wide Angle of Beauty...
"We instinctively try harder to do more of what we've been doing that got us into trouble, trying to fix what we are hardly willing to learn."
"In Greek the word for beautiful is 'to kalon.' It is related to the word 'kalein' which includes the notion of 'call.' When we experience beauty, we feel called. The Beautiful stirs passion and urgency in us and calls us forth from aloneness into the warmth and wisdom of an eternal embrace. It unites us again with the neglected and forgotten grandeur of life.... in some instinctive way we know that beauty is no stranger. We respond with joy to the call of beauty because in an instant it can awaken under the layers of the heart a forgotten brightness."
"To experience beauty is to have your life enlarged."
"True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing."
"I don't think it is possible to contribute to the present moment in any meaningful way while being wholly engulfed by it. It is only by stepping out of it ... that we can then dip back in and do the work which our time asks of us."