A Pretty Blue Planet: musings from 1974

It was very early in the morning.  My father awakened me and, rubbing sleep from my eyes, I followed him to the chesterfield ( as we called it in those days) and we sat together  in our small living room in front of our first television set.  He adjusted the antennae and we waited. It was a fuzzy picture but this was history in the making he told me. … 5-4-3-2-1- blast off – and John Glenn, America’s first astronaut, was bound for space. That was 1962. I was 8 years old. Then in 1969 we watched again as the first pictures of earth from the moon appeared as no one had seen it before. I was awestruck. It was beautiful.  There it was, a pretty blue planet floating free against the darkness of space.  Today it is commonplace to see such pictures as they arise from the numerous space shuttle and space station missions, but I wonder if it causes the same reaction as it did for me all those years ago.  So, here is one of the first musings I had as a youth on the topic of the wonder of our planet.  I wrote the attached thoughts in 1974 during my studies at university while I tried to reconcile the science of life and the cosmos and how such a magnificent place could appear.  I tidied it up a bit in later years, added the photo, but it remains virtually the same. I hope you experience the same wonder of it all as I did – and still do. 

Why are we here?  Please let your imagination consider this:

A Pretty Blue Planet Floating Free

The planet floats in the dark void of nothingness we call space.  Eternity is in all directions.  An infinite void of emptiness surrounds us. Yet here it is, a pretty blue planet floating free in its very special place in the universe.  It is not a lifeless rock with unimaginable, inhospitable conditions.  It is not an overheated poisoned place nor is it a frozen wasteland of solidified gasses.  It sits in its orbit, just the right distance from its star, spinning on a tilted axis that distributes the heat that keeps it neither too warm nor too cold, with oceans of water and a precise mix of gases in its atmosphere to sustain its life.  Yet these are just a few of the countless, apparently random factors that have come together in one place to make this special planet our home.

a planet earth

And the life that abounds is even more amazing.  The inanimate, lifeless matter, having originated from the ancient stars long since gone, arises from the earth itself and is somehow assembled into the multitude of life forms that populate, move and breathe throughout its oceans and land.  The life forms on the planet come and go, receding back into the cycle of lifeless matter from where it came, only to re-emerge again and again over the eons in various forms.  All the while the planet keeps its lonely vigil simply orbiting its star in the vastness of space; around and around it goes.

 

So, if the human mind and our very being are made from the matter of ancient stars, that just happened to come together and emerge as life on this planet; and when we think about such things and how amazing this planet really is; and we ponder the marvels of the universe and its secrets as they are slowly revealed to us; are we not actually the universe thinking about itself?

 

Are these simply random events that just coincidently all came together with an infinitesimal probability to create this special place?  – I think not.

 

A pretty blue planet floating free,

with everything needed to keep it alive,

is provided here at no cost,

but once it is gone,

it is forever lost.

– Ken Bennett, 1974

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “A Pretty Blue Planet: musings from 1974

  1. Beautiful Dad. I have always enjoyed listening to you thinking about the universe and what it all means, and where we all come from. It has sparked something in each of us to think bigger and deeper into our seemly small lives. Contemplation and discovery, a vital part of my growth; Thank you.

    I think that we have come to take it all for granted, the abundance of imagery is no longer mind blowing; likewise, the overwhelming amount of information we have at our fingertips each and every day no longer excites us. Need something? Have a question? Forget thinking about it for days, researching, and discovering new questions and answers, just point and click. No thought process necessary. Thank you Technology, you’ve tied our hands, we need you and hate you all at the same time.

    -Jess

    • I agree. The instant access to information, automatically taking it at face value without further research and then instantly forgetting about it has led to short reading spans and little thought that ultimately eliminates critical thinking. There are recent studies that show this is happening.

  2. Hi, Ken. I had a read of your post, and to me it seems you might be suggesting an extension of the Gaia theory. Again I’m feeling my geek nerves twitching, because this idea was covered splendidly by one of my favourite authors of all time – the late, great Isaac Asimov – in his chronologically final two novels of the Foundation series (“Foundation’s Edge” and “Foundation and Earth”) in which he explores the idea that all organisms and their inorganic surroundings are connected. Together, the books are a riveting read of quiet yet deep contemplation and inquiry. I highly recommend them to you, to add to your ruminations.

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