Earthrise

“The other thing. . . was that this little spot, the Bahamas lowland, was a turquoise jewel that you could see all the way to the moon. . . . It was like it was illuminated, like a piece of opal.  And you could see that all the way to the moon.  And I kept being amazed about that”.   Bill Anders,  Apollo 8

Imagine being behind a rock, on The Sea of Tranquility, on the moon, for these past 3.5 billion years. Off in your horizon would be this blue-white planet with patches of brown.  Over these years, you would notice these patches of brown coalesce and then separate, you would see white patches come and go, even for awhile covering the entire planet – “snow ball earth”.  You wouldn’t be able to see the proteinaceous sea congeal into life, in the blue, and then come ashore and then proliferate, but you would notice increasing green.  You might happen to notice, some 65 million years ago, a meteor strike the planet, clouding up the blue and white, and green, but you wouldn’t be able to know that this collision would set the stage for small mammals to evolve into primates, and eventually into self-conscious, self-cultivating beings, humans.  You wouldn’t know that Kublai Khan, after conquering all of China, failed to conquer Japan.  You would, however, eventually note a faint suggestion of lighted areas, particularly along blue margins, due to the intentional harnessing of energy into light by humankind, although you wouldn’t realize the profound human global proliferation.

Then, on July 20, 1969, suddenly, out of the black sky you would notice a shiny, flaming object descending towards you, with blinking lights, and gold and silver lining.   It would land with a slight bounce and puff of dust, and then would extinguish its flame.  A bit later, two objects would emerge, slowly descend, and move around, digging and gesturing.  They would plant a flag, go back inside, and then later, with a new burst of flame, ascend and disappear.

You would have witnessed a singular event, and would then know that somehow, in the silent black of the immense universe of stars, and in this triangular neighborhood of the sun, the moon, and the earth, self-organizing systems of organic complexity managed to create non-organic systems of complexity that could carry them across empty space and bring them to see for themselves the silent, vast heavens they had for so long imagined, and allow them to look back on their planet and see, in one small view, where everyone has ever lived and died, and where all of any known history has happened.

You would know that they will still live with the mystery of it all, but they will have at last come to know, for sure, that this mystery is. . . . real.

when I first looked back at the Earth, standing on the surface of the moon, I cried.  And if everybody had ever told me I was going to do that, I’d have said, “no, you’re out of your mind.” Alan Shepard, Apollo 14

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