For a while now, “06880” has rung in the new year with an iconic photo: The “blue marble” image of Earth, suspended in space.
Taken by Apollo 17 astronauts in December 1972, for half a century it’s symbolized the beauty and fragility of our planet, and the interconnectedness of us all.
This year, I’m going intergalactic.
In the 5 months since the James Webb Space Telescope beamed its first pictures back to us, the world has been mesmerized.
We thought we knew how vast and amazing the universe is.
Now, we realize, we don’t know the half — or the hundredth, or squintillionth — of it.
Gazing at photos like the one above, we realize how insignificant we truly are. Our planet is just one grain of sand, on an obscure beach, in an out-of-the-way location.
We really don’t matter at all.
Except to us.
Take a look at that photo again.
That landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region in the Carina Nebula. For the first time, we see stars being born.
We look billions of light years into the past. That’s crazy stuff.
So — back here on Earth, in our tiny Zip code in our small state in our big country in our average-sized planet — we have to wonder: What actually matters?
Is it whether the new building in Saugatuck is 5 stories tall, or only 4? Is it a tile mural? Is it the inconvenience of traffic on our roads, or whether certain books should be banned in school libraries, or kept?
The answer is: Yes.
These things matter.
They matter because they are part of our lives here in Westport. Sure, the universe seems endless, we still can’t really conceive of the fourth dimension, and our universe itself may be part of another, “living” life form.
In other words, the Westport — and the world — we know may just be atoms in an infinitely more complex something-or-other.
But all that’s for another day (or time).
Meanwhile, we’re looking for the answers to life out there. But right now, it’s our own lives to lead, right here in “06880.”
Let’s lead them well.
And so … bringing us back to what we know best … here’s that beautiful blue marble, once more.