You wake up. You struggle against the gravitational pull of the bed and get to your feet. You head for the coffee pot, reminding yourself that yes your damaged knees ache right now, but the pain will diminish over the next hour or so as you move about. Before you reach the coffee pot you discover the cat vomited during the night.
It’s a small thing. A truly small thing, even for the cat — who is sitting lazy-eyed in the sun by the window, completely unconcerned. It’s a small thing, but it has to be dealt with. It has to be cleaned up, which you can do as soon as the coffee has been started.
In a bit you’re sitting in front of the computer, your knees hardly ache at all, there’s a cup of Kona to one side, the cat vomit has been cleaned, the sun is shining, and you see this:
Fifteen years, nine months, and six days ago the Cassini-Huygens satellite was hurled into space atop a Titan IV rocket. It’s mission was to study Saturn, and it’s been in orbit around that planet since 2004. But a few days ago, the satellite turned its cameras homeward.
That’s the Earth, that sparkly bit right there in the middle. The Earth and the moon, seen from 898,410,414 miles away.
When I say That’s the Earth what I mean is That’s you and me. That’s everybody we know, and everybody we’ve ever known, and everybody we’ve ever heard about or read about. Shakespeare lived on that little sparkly bit, and Dashiell Hammett. Woody Guthrie made music on that sparkly bit, and so did Mozart and Cole Porter. Pablo Picasso noodled around that sparkly bit for more than ninety years, splashing dabs of genius all over the place. Seventy-some years ago that sparkly bit was involved in a war that spanned three of its seven continents. At least five times in its life, that sparkly bit has been largely covered with ice.
Seen from a distance of nearly nine billion miles, an ice age seems like just a passing phase. World War II, just a small thing. Mozart, a blip. Picasso? Well, he had cats. And you can be sure those cats occasionally vomited, and likely Picasso had to clean it up.
This is the cat that vomited. The photo was taken about the same time Cassini-Huygens took the photo of the Earth and the moon. This cat doesn’t care about Picasso, or world wars, or ice ages, or satellites hurled nearly nine billion miles into space. This cat doesn’t even care that she vomited, not really. She doesn’t have to clean it up.
Distance gives you perspective. Proximity gives you life. We can create marvelous technological feats, we can inflict horrific depredations on our planet — but the cat will still vomit and somebody has to clean it up.