Earlier this year, a full, complete picture of our Earth was taken and released by NASA. It is the second such photo in our history, the first having been taken some forty-three years ago in 1972. Both pictures have been dubbed "blue marble," a name affectionately given to our planet, and they are breathtaking.
While some have, understandably, paid close attention to the visual condition of our atmosphere, both photos have evoked within me another kind of comparison. I think of my own life, and that of my friends and family, of what has changed during the time between photographs. The thoughts are both sad and humbling.
In 1972, My mother would have been 25 and my father 27 for most of the year. In 2015, mom is now 68, and dad has been dead for almost two decades. Lewis is no longer a living being in the 2015 picture, though his body lies entombed below the ground. I wonder about mom's life then, compared to now. Her and dad were married but still childless. What was life like for Sally and Lewis at the time the photo was taken?
Three of my grandparents were alive in 1972: Callie Mae, Emma Gene and Dean. None of them would be alive for the Earth of 2015. Hardly any of my friends would have been alive in '72. Tracy was, just 2 or 3 years old (depending on when the picture was taken), though he's not alive for the 2015 photo. My great-aunt Betty was alive forty-three years ago, probably doing family things with her husband Robert and their kids. As the 2015 photo was taken in July, it missed Betty by just a month - she died in June. Now, in the newer photo, Robert is a widower, and their kids have families of their own.
Richard M. Nixon. now deceased, occupied the White House in the first picture. In the second picture it's Barack Obama. In the first picture, the Prime Minister of Great Britain was Edward Heath (also deceased). Now it is David Cameron. Chris Pratt, star of 2015's most financially successfully film, was seven years away from existing in the 1972 photograph.
Speaking of non-existence, yours truly wasn't around in the first picture. There's a certain humility when one is faced with the stark comparison of when they were alive and when they... weren't. The realization is, oddly enough, rather comforting. Sometimes it can be anxiety-inducing to think of one's death, of non-existence and lack of consciousness. But, looking at the 1972 photograph, I am calmed with the knowledge that, here, not so long ago in the grand scheme of things, I didn't exist. And it was okay. Now, at least, I have had four decades to hopefully make some sort of positive imprint on friends, family, pets and perhaps even a few strangers.
You can't even see the people of Earth in either photo. We're small, though not insignificant. Not to sound too grand about it, but what we do has a ripple effect across time and space. The unseen humans of the 1972 picture directly and indirectly impacted the unseen humans of the 2015 picture. The Earth has traveled a long way since then. Through it all, both photographs contain the same people, people who are no longer with us on this journey, and people who are new to it.
It's all rather awe-inspiring, in the most humbling way possible.