What is local and what is global?

Several years ago there was a yellow haze in the air, noticeably different from anything I had seen before. It was very fine dust from the Gobi desert. It had crossed the Pacific Ocean. Amazing. The desertification in China showed up as air pollution in Seattle.

A funny thing happened when we went to the moon, we learnt that is wasn’t made of cheese…and we saw the earth from another point of view. I really believe that change of view was the most pivotal event that has happened in my lifetime. With our own eyes we saw that there is one earth, and from the moon it doesn’t look all that big. I was 7.

What changed? Our perspective. We really are on a tiny life supporting island in a beautiful, but harsh and shockingly empty, universe. .

Long before the moon landing Blaise Pascal wrote:

L’homme n’est qu’un roseau, mais c’est un roseau pensant. Il ne faut pas que l’universe s’arme pour l’ecraser. Une vapeur, une goute d’eau suffit pour le tuer. Mais quand l’universe l’ecraserais, l’homme sera encore plus noble que ce qui le tue. Parcequ’il sait qu’il meure et l’avantage que l’universe a sur lui. L’universe n’en sait rien.*

Man is but a reed, but he is a thinking reed. It is not necessary for the universe to arm itself to erase him. A vapor, a taste of water is sufficient to kill him. But when the universe erases him, man becomes more noble that that which kills him. Because he knows he is dying and the advantage the universe has over him. The universe knows nothing.

I learned that by heart in my high school French class. In my head it was always connected to pictures of space. Especially those with the earth in them. My personal favorite is call “earthrise”. That photo sends chills down my spine.

We are so interconnected. Our communities can consist of people around the world…and the world doesn’t seem as big as it once did. I spent an hour just hanging out with my son in China last night, a QQ video chat about this and that. It was nice.

I worked in the space industry. I’ve looked at more rivets than most can imagine, over-driven, under-driven and just right driven. Small gouges in very thin pieces of metal had to be analyzed to make sure the aluminum skins could still do their part. We were involved in getting satellites into orbit. Many of them, on some level all of them, were communication satellites. I suppose that is almost the ultimate local-global connection: small rivets that makes communication around the globe possible. Was I talking to James via a satellite I helped, in my own small way, to launch? I rather hope so.

I also hope that they help other mothers connect with their children, and other family and friends, old and new, all around this beautiful, and fragile blue marble of ours.

 

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Think Global, Act Local.”

*This quote may not be perfect, I wrote it from memory and translated it myself.

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