The Earth as an Egg

This cushion-for-error of humanity’s survival and growth up to now was apparently provided just as a bird inside of the egg is provided with liquid nutriment to develop it to a certain point. But then by design the nutriment is exhausted at just the time when the chick is large enough to be able to locomote on its own legs. And as the chick pecks at the shell seeking more nutriment it inadvertently breaks open the shell. Stepping forth from its initial sanctuary, the young bird must now forage on its own legs and wings to discover the next phase of its regenerative sustenance. —Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth

Good writers changes your perspective through their choice of words. Buckminster Fuller did this by calling the planet “Spaceship Earth,” which immediately alters the imagery — now, thanks to his words, we’re flying through space. His analogy of the earth as an egg does this as well, and it’s beautiful and frightening at the same time.

It’s a very Goldilocks sort of view — everything is just right. We’ve been given all that we need to hatch humanity into perpetuity like the chick that consumes the nutrients until it has the strength to peck its way out of its shell.

And as we wrestle with renewable energy and increasing food demands, the analogy is even more fitting. Fossil fuels are the nutrients that have propelled us thus far. The biosphere — a thin, fragile ribbon around the earth — is our yolk. It encompasses all life as we know it and stores all of the energy we have. The atmosphere is the shell that traps all of the sunlight we need and protects us from harmful rays and errant asteroids. We are encapsulated and safe.

However, the egg analogy also suggests an end, that the clock is ticking — we have to make sure that we don’t consume all the nutrients before we have the strength to break through. But what does this mean, this breaking through? With a renewed interest in space travel, maybe it means leaving the planet, that we’ve been given enough nutrients here to build a machine to take flight and explore.

It’s a beautiful thought to me that the universe is full of millions of little blue eggs, incubated by distant suns, waiting to hatch their inhabitants into space. But the fact remains that someday our sun will be no more, and then what? Do we break through to a new world, a new existence, or do we wither away to nothing within the shell?


theDOT — The Discomfort of Thought

Too often we…enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. —John F. Kennedy

Discomfort of Thought

As I’ve said, Kris has all the good ideas, the name of this blog being no different. She suggested the above quote, and it made a good acronym as well. The more I thought about it, the more I really liked it on a couple different levels. The act of writing, for me, serves to clarify. As Stephen King said in On Writing, “writing is refined thinking,” and for me, that’s really true. The act of writing something down, having to explain it, forces me to clarify it in my own mind. It’s easy to read a book, skim a news article, travel someplace, or see an art exhibit and move on; it’s much harder — more uncomfortable, if you will — to have to write about it. Writing forces you to have an opinion and keeps you honest. And it’s even harder to have an educated opinion, yet very easy to broadcast an uneducated one.

Connecting Dots/Network

“The Dot” abbreviation I also really liked. I’ve always thought of myself as being able to connect the dots fairly well. I’m fairly broad in terms of education and experience, and I like to understand how things (fields of study, art, innovations, businesses — anything really) are tied together. The idea of dots and connections is a good analogy — I love reading something that makes me think of something else where I can connect different topics. In this way, over time I hope to build a network of posts — related, connected, linked to each other.

Pale Blue Dot

Lastly, it reminds me of the “pale blue dot,” the name of a photo of Earth taken by Voyager 1 in 1990 at the request of Carl Sagan. This photo’s title then became the title for Sagan’s book, The Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. This ties back to another idea of Kennedy’s that I like, the idea of space as a frontier — a new frontier. Astronauts speak of a phenomenon called the overview effect — i.e., that seeing the whole Earth as a fragile thing flying through space leads to a higher level of consciousness. Travel does this, too — once you’ve been around the world, it can feel pretty small. You look at a globe and say I’ve been to that side and down there — it’s not that big. You realize it’s fragile and filled with people just like you all wanting the same things: basic necessities, of course, but also love, happiness, and to do something, to mean something…to find some sort of fulfillment during our limited time on this pale blue dot. In this similarity, we are all connected, like dots — and I really like the thought of that.

Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from outside, is available…a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.  —Fred Hoyle, 1948

Aeon magazine put together a great short movie on the first photos of the Earth from space: