We are all unaware that we live and share a small, confined space we call home. This tiny space is unfortunately warm and cozy that it makes us all ignorant and oblivious to our surroundings. I know you’d argue that you’re not living in a small space, you have a big house, and you live in a big city. You are a citizen of a big country. Moreover, you are not restrained from seeing other places and visiting different countries. So why do I say we live in a small confined area?
We all do. We actually just forgot about it. Our ignorance causes us to quickly feel proud of the things we have and the position we hold. You may own a big house, but for the city where you live in, your home is just one among a thousand other houses. You do live in a big city then, but no, your city is only one among hundreds of cities that are equally large. There are probably tens of others that are much larger in size and population. As for your country, it is just one among hundreds of other countries on this planet we call Earth.
I think now you begin to see where I’ll go on next. Yes, this planet Earth we call home is not as grandeur you may imagine. We feel so special we thought we were the centre of the universe for more than 2000 years. It was just recently, about 300 years ago, Nicolaus Copernicus, who first stated that it is the sun, not the earth, as the centre of the solar system. This realisation came in a relatively recent time compared to the age of human civilisation on earth.
Our earth is not unique at all. It is just one of 200-400 billion planets in our milky-way galaxy. Yes, 400 billion, wait let me spell that out for you, 400, 000,000,000 planets. With such a large number of planets, you might think our galaxy is special then. Well, not really. It’s just one tiny ordinary group of stars and planets floating at the edge of the universe housing to 200 billion other galaxies. Yet, that number only comes from an estimation of the observable universe, meaning the universe that we can see using the latest cutting edge instrument human ever created. There are still vast areas unknown to human knowledge to date because we just couldn’t capture through our technology. Yet, the universe is always expanding at an accelerating rate!
Now, how big and how far is it from one to the other end of this observable universe? It’s about 92 billion light-years. I know you won’t be able to picture how significant and extensive this distance is. Well, let’s see what constitutes one light year. Let’s say if you can choose a spot on the equator line and then walk around the earth to go back to that first spot. Then you need to do it as many as 236 million times! That’s how far one light-year is. Do you still think that you are not actually living in a tiny confined place? Just the thought of it should make us feel really small and insignificant, let alone feeling proud of what we have what positions we hold, or material things that fight for from one another.
Sadly, being human, it’s so easy for us to feel proud and unique. Not many people can see beyond their home and neighbourhood. The effect of living in such a tiny place with a constricted perception of the world makes us feel being exceptional and so extraordinary. There is nothing else in this little place that would be more important than us. If you reflect, how often and how much time do you spend not thinking about yourself and what you do in a day? Not so much, because we are too busy minding about our selves, the problems we face and the things we enjoy doing.
Indonesia is going through yet another phase of its journey in democracy. It is the time its citizens have to choose its leader for the next five years. Voting has completed; the counting is in its final stage, in a few days, the elected leader will be known. The bickering between the two supporters has not yet subsided. Some even do not care if the debates and the campaign are still fair and elegant. They get so passionate that the line between being a supporter or a lunatic fanatic seems a blur.
Now, there is a real risk here. When people get so passionate, they become blinded. Driven by our impulsive nature of being human, our stupidity and our conflated instinct to fight for survival, we may end up going through yet another grim moment in the national history. The election result could trigger yet another political turmoil in the country. We have witnessed so many horrific images coming out of political unrests and conflicts time and again. Millions of Indonesians have lost their lives since the founding fathers declared independence in 1945. It’s still within one’s lifetime to witness all these gruesome moments in our history, the cleansing of citizens in 1965, ethnic conflicts in 1998 in Kalimantan, and the looting of possessions, raping of women in Jakarta during the fall of Suharto in 1998.
Let’s prevent any Indonesian blood spilled again in our own motherland. We’re all brothers and sisters. All these arguments and fights over the chosen leader are trivial and insignificant. If we could expand our views of the world, just by a little bit. Try to see it beyond us, beyond our family and our house, beyond our neighbourhood, beyond our city, beyond our country, even beyond our planet. If we could try to picture ourselves looking down from a distant place in the outer space looking down the earth, this beautiful blue planet we call home, we won’t be able to see all the things that we feel so important and so proud of, the things that we fight for. We are just a tiny particle, insignificant, and even unseen from far above. Our planet is just a speck of dust floating in the vast and dark ocean of the universe.
Inspired by Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot.
Sagan, C. 1994. A vision of the Human Future in Space: Pale Blue Dot. The Random House Publishing Group.