Saturday, January 21, 2012

Getting a Little Perspective

infinitesimal |in-fin-i-tes-uh-muhl|
a : indefinitely or exceedingly small; minute
b : immeasurably small; less than an assignable quantity
c : of, pertaining to, or involving infinitesimals

ORIGIN   1645–55; < Neo-Latin infīnītēsim, equivalent to Latin infīnīt meaning infinite 

     What do you think of when you hear infinitesimal? I always think about Mr. Ray in Finding Nemo when he is taking his class to the drop off.

     He gasps and says, "Stromalitic cyanobacteria! Gather. An entire ecosystem contained in one infinitesimal speck!" It's a really great use of vocabulary, and according to my English teachers, vivid language. It more accurately describes your subject than everyday words like small, little, or tiny. Infinitesimal just sounds like something you would squint at. Look at the dot in this picture:

     Pretty infinitesimal, right? Maybe even unsubstantial or unimportant. Compare that speck to something really big. Bigger than an elephant, bigger than the Nile, bigger than Africa. Compare it to Earth. It's looks like a big difference, doesn't it? But what if I told you that the infinitesimal speck in the strip of light really was the Earth? Do you believe me?
     This photograph is known as The Pale Blue Dot. It's a photograph of planet Earth taken in 1990 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft. The Voyager was approximately 6 billion kilometers away from Earth at the time. In the picture, Earth is only 0.12 pixel in size. Who would have ever imagined Earth as being infinitesimal?
"From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it's different. 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."
- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

On a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. Something that you squint at. I think Neil Armstrong sums up what I feel. When Armstrong was in space looking down at the Earth he said this:
"It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small."

     Why would he feel so small? Because Someone larger than Earth, larger than 6 billion kilometers of space, larger than the entire universe had to create it all. God simply spoke and it came to be (Genesis chapter 1). Our world, which seems so large and the extreme opposite of infinitesimal, is miniscule when compared to God. Actually it's even less than that. Yet God has chosen us to love. Wow. Compared to God, we are small. But just because we're small doesn't mean we aren't important, especially to God.