Column

‘Out damned spot’. Out damned dot!

Brian Keyes

Reporter:

Brian Keyes

Gerry Moran

Gerry Moran

Every now and again I receive an email that brings a smile of positivity to my face and to my being! And although I am by no means a negative person (my better half might not always agree) like many of us, I can do with all the positivity I can get. Here’s one of those emails.
One day a professor asked his students to prepare for a surprise test. He handed out the question paper with the text facing down as is normal.
Once the papers were handed out he asked his students to turn the page and begin.
To everyone’s surprise there were no questions, just a blank page with a black dot in the centre of the page. The professor then said: ‘I want you to write what you see there.’
The students, somewhat confused, got started on the strange task. At the end of the class the professor read each one of the papers aloud in front of all the students. Each one of them, with no exceptions, described the black dot, trying to explain its position in the middle of the blank sheet and what it might stand for.
After all the papers had been read, the room fell silent as the professor began to explain.
‘I am not going to grade you on this’, he said, ‘I just wanted to give you something to think about. No one wrote about the white part of the paper, everyone focused on the black dot.
Focus
‘The same happens in our lives. We always focus on the dark spots. Life is a gift given to us and we always have reasons to celebrate. However, we tend to focus only on the dark spots: the health issues that bother us, money problems, the complicated relationship with our partner or family member, our disappointment with a friend and so on.
‘The dark spots are very small’, he continued, ‘compared to everything we have in our lives. But the dark spots are the ones that pollute our minds. Take your eyes away from the black spots in your life. Enjoy each and every one of your blessings, enjoy each moment that life gives you. Be happy and live life positively.’
I love it.
However, if I’m to be honest, as much I believe in, and embrace, positivity, occasionally I am prone to pondering the dark spots. They seem to have a habit of commandeering the entire white page.
So, with a view to flattening the spot! I’m adopting as my mantra Lady Macbeth’s famous line ‘Out damned spot’ or rather: ‘Out damned dot.’
Pale blue dot
From black dot to ‘Pale Blue Dot’. ‘Pale Blue Dot’ is one the most perceptive and thought-provoking perspectives on our planet, and the species who inhabit it (i.e. us) that I have ever come upon.
‘Pale Blue Dot’ (available on Youtube) refers to planet Earth which is essentially nothing more than a tiny speck of blue in the vast cosmic dark.
The man behind ‘Pale Blue Dot’ is the late American astronomer, cosmologist and science communicator Carl Sagan (1934 –1996) who co-wrote and narrated the award-winning 1980 TV series ‘Cosmos, A Personal Voyage’ which became the most widely watched series in the history of American public television.
As Sagan tells it: ‘The earth is a very small stage in a vast Cosmic arena…..a lonely speck in the enveloping cosmic dark.’ In a three minute, 27-second video he puts into focus how petty a species we are – how violent, selfish, greedy and how we are so unaware of our brief stay on planet earth.
Cherish
The underlying message of ‘Pale Blue Planet’ is simple - we need to cop ourselves on, we need to cherish and preserve this pale blue dot, our only home.
We are not the Masters of the Universe as believed in the time of Galileo (1564-1642) who was tried by the Catholic Church for heresy for suggesting that the earth was not the centre of the then known Solar System but rather the Sun.
Found guilty, Galileo retracted his writings but spent the rest of his life under house arrest, but in fairness, the Church officially pardoned him a mere 350 years after his death!
In the meantime keep your eye off the black dot and focus on the wholesome whiteness around it and check out ‘Pale Blue Dot’ on Youtube. Black Dot, ‘Pale Blue Dot’, food for thought. A lot!