Perhaps, as a response to my previous post, I would like to share my sentiments about the crisis in Syria. Crisis, in fact, is an understatement with regards to the violence and inhumane conditions Syrians are subjected to. One cannot be blamed to assume civil wars are a thing of the past. After all, we live in such modern times, where disagreements can be resolved through discussion (although not always amicably), and people are generally free to live their lives they want to.
But it’s similarly naïve to think racism is a thing of the past, and that poverty has been eradicated, and that democracy works for the whole world. Man is limited, with a finite understanding of an infinite world. We don’t live in a picture-perfect society. While we’ve improved in some ways, we’re still a long way from the ideal “harmonious” world of love, peace, and caring. But we can try. And we must try.
The violence in Syria has enveloped my heart with sadness. It is incredibly frustrating to see the loss of so many innocent lives. I will be a hypocrite if I say I am not guilt-ridden. I’m here in some tropical island enjoying my country’s bullish economy and its associated pleasures while millions of Syrians are fleeing their homeland in an unprecedented exodus.
I have the comforts of a real home while they stay in dusty, haphazardly put tents. I have a bed to look forward to, a job the next day, the pleasures of a routine. Others are fighting to stay alive, including fellow Filipinos working in Syria, trapped, or refusing to leave. The chemical attacks carried out on men, women, and children are horrifying. How can anyone possible stomach a good night’s sleep knowing they had killed so many? What sort of internal conviction can harden the conscience with such cruel results? What sort of power corrupts for one to be so indifferent to the value of human life?
I wonder about the US plans to strike Syria. Is it truly a solution, the US once again meddling with someone else’s war? But what are the other options? What is the purpose of raising awareness over the civil war if we cannot do anything about it? Donations for the refugees? Financial help? Yes, they are all good on the surface. It’s better to have something done than to be indifferent, really. But can they really stop two-sides of a country seething bitterly at one another? Or do we simply read and watch the news, content to watch the violence play out, perhaps with a modest hope it will end?
The religious have turned to prayer. After all, when man loses control of something, anything, or everything, he usually turns to a higher power. I’m not too keen about praying, because on a personal level, my experiences with it have been greatly disappointing. My relationship with God and my changing belief systems also subject prayer to great doubt.
And yet, what else can a man do after sending money to the Red Cross, or dropping off donations in volunteer organizations? What else can he do aside from protesting against added violence to Syria, or sharing the latest updates about the crisis in the Middle East on Twitter and Facebook? He can only utter a plaintive sigh, a humble request for mercy from a God who may not have heard his own pleas but who could perhaps, be compassionate and kind enough to remember those in heart wrenching situations.
Whenever I see the news on Syria – the graphic images of the dead, the chaos, the explosions, the fleeing citizens – I cannot help but remember Carl Sagan’s philosophical reflections about our world, which he wrote in his book, Pale Blue Dot. The American astronomer wrote a sobering description about the Earth inspired by the Pale Blue Dot photograph, showing our planet as a tiny dot in the vast expanse of the universe. Perhaps, it is best to end this post by sharing Sagan’s thoughts on which you can reflect upon as we continue to keep Syria in our thoughts and prayers.
From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
~ Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, 1997 reprint, pp. xv–xvi