Communion Of Dreams

A blue valentine.
February 14, 2010, 2:10 pm
Filed under: Art, Astronomy, Carl Sagan, NASA, NPR, Science, Science Fiction, Space, Titan

I’m not big on Valentine’s Day. No, I’m not some kind of cold, unloving bastard. Quite the contrary – I resent the cynical manipulation by the greeting card and floral industries creating the expectation that men can only show their love on one special day each year. I love my wife and try to show it to her in many honest ways throughout the year.

But February 14th is memorable for me for another reason.

20 years ago on this day we received a picture – a perspective, if you will – which we had never seen before. That of Earth from the vantage of the Voyager 1 spacecraft – an image which has come to be known as the Pale Blue Dot. The book of the same name helped inspire and inform my writing of Communion of Dreams – a fact which can be seen in several passages, but which most readily comes to mind for me as this dream sequence:

The bridge was perhaps three meters wide, and arched slowly up in front of him, so that he couldn’t see the other end. It had walls of stone about a meter high, and periodically along those walls he could see small sculpted stone vases in which grew roses. Blue roses. He went over and peered into one of the buds, a clean blue light almost like a gas flame. The petals spread, until the flower was completely open.

Turning, he started to walk toward the rise in the center of the bridge. After a few dozen paces, he was almost halfway across the bridge, but he couldn’t see the other side. The fog seemed to rise up from the surface of the river, the bridge stretched off into a muzziness of grey. Then he noticed that the roses in a nearby vase were smaller, the light somehow more distant.

Another couple dozen paces and the end of the bridge where he had begun was almost out of sight. The roses had continued to shrink in size, and the light of each receded. It had grown darker, too, the sun had begun to shrink in size, as though retreating from him. He walked on. There was still no end in sight, just the bridge continuing into a growing dimness. The sun was smaller still, and had lost enough intensity that he could look straight at it without discomfort. The roses here were so small as to be hard to make out, the blue dot of light in each flower becoming pale. And he noticed that the walkway beneath his feet now felt spongy, like it was becoming insubstantial.

Tentatively taking a few more steps, at last he felt his foot sink into the bridge, and he started falling forward.

That’s from the end of Chapter Five, as the protagonist and his team of scientists are en route to Titan and are metaphorically crossing from the known to the unknown. Just as Voyager continues to do.

Happy Pale Blue Dot Day.

Jim Downey

All Things Considered had a nice piece about this photograph and what led to it last Friday, which includes this nice bit from Carl Sagan:

Look again at 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.

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