About 3 months ago, a friend called to tell me about the photos of earth from Voyager 2.
They were not new, but they were new to us. We gawked, we gasped, we couldn't believe our little size.
( I wrote you about it a few blogs ago).
Since then, I have found myself sneaking out of the library when I could no longer see straight first going to the movie Gravity in 3D, then to the local Planetarium to learn about Black Holes (I know Hawking doesn't believe in them anymore..) and then in mid-Februray to the Arctic Circle.
That's me above, I know I look a bit like a South Park character with 17 layers on.
All this star gazing and glaxaxy contemplation has started to have side effects.
Ok, that isn't so unusual, big deal.
I had the opportunity to cover a couple Master's classes at the School of Conflict Resolution and Analysis and shared with the students that if they bring 1 thing to a conflict, it ought to be perspective..Help everyone chill out. Show them a picture of tiny winy little earth.
Here's how my new perspective surprisingly turned around my day today.
This afternoon, I was riding the BART train from San Francisco airport into the city. I faced a Chinese woman (about 50) and her mother (about 80). They were chatting away in Chinese.
I heard myself think, "They look so foreign here, I wonder how they ended up in San Francisco."
Yikes, I thought.
That's a weird thought.
That's a lame thought.
Weird because I had lived in a Chinese neighborhood in San Francisco for three years. So, I understand the huge Chinese population.
I decided to work with my thinking...I thought about the Tiny Blue Dot image...the one taken by the Voyager that shows earth as this little itty bitty tiny winy pin head.
We're all riding the same rock around the sun, I reminded myself, and this is as much their rock as it is mine.
Having this thought felt better.
I watched the mother unwrap a snack sized Milky Way bar (rather ironic) and nod as her daughter went on about something.
After navigating the chocolate morsel into her mouth, I noticed her little sticky fingers and offered her a hand-wipe.
They both lit up.
They seemed so surprised that this zippy white traveller in her pleather jacket, celestial scarf with two bags was concerned about the mother's sticky hands.
We had a laugh about it and then went back to our own thoughts.
When I got up to leave the train, my water bottle dropped off my bag.
The elderly woman leapt across the seat, grabbed it and put it back in for me.
It required quite a bit of agility - the doors would close in a moment so she had to move fast to help me.
I was so touched.
I said, "xie xie" (shay shay) to them both.
And the younger woman said "you speak good Chinese"
No, I don't. I had visited my brother who lives in Beijing and had to know a little to get about.
But my effort with the language shortened the planetary divide.
Ok so why this long story?
Because had I not been sneaking out to all those star gazing events, I would not have so quickly remembered that we all share the same ride around the run.
International Boarders, language and culture have evolved over time. They serve all kinds of economic, cultural, and security purposes.
I get that.
But I also get that it's a HUGE universe out there. That's far older and far bigger than earth.
Our galaxy has an estimated 100 billion stars..
Yes, our galaxy has about 100 billion stars like our sun!!
Guess how many galaxies they think there are?
Around 100 billion.. Or close to that. Or was it 100 million? Well, it was something enormous.
Any way you get the idea.
If you were floating around space like Sandra Bullock you'd be happy to see ANYONE from earth. It may be a bit crowded here, but it seems a bit lonely out there.
When I realized this, it made me feel closer to my Chinese seat mates. We shared a little moment. It completely turned my day around.
If there's a moral to the story..I guess it's when you feel tight, ungenerous, scared, burnt out, or disconnected..go to the planetarium, look up, peruse celestial pictures on line. It may improve your metro ride one day..or even your life.
Keep me posted...I'm gazing at the San Francisco evening sky right now and curious to see what will unfold.
Sarah Federman, PhD
Enjoy these short blogs and videos designed to bring you a little cheer.
My other blog Language of Conflict addresses the importance of word choice and narration in conflict.
Finish and Flourish supports writers struggling to complete projects.