Drops of Paint on an Endless Black Canvas

Blue and Grey Photo

This photo was taken by Mike Collins, the astronaut you’ve never heard of from the first moon landing, Apollo 11. He stayed in the command module while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin went down to take the first footsteps on the surface. The image is the lunar module returning from the surface to connect with the main unit.

While an interesting image by itself, what I find significant is that the entire span of human existence is contained within this frame. Except for the photographer, everyone who is alive or dead is in this photo. Every sight, sound, smell, touch, emotion, thought, and dream that has ever existed is contained within this image, encapsulated in these blue and grey hemispheres on a canvas of black.

All of our wars, our hatred, our jealousy, our prejudice, is here, in plain view. Each and every one of our worst atrocities, our massacres, our rapes, our inhuman leveragings of power across thousands of years of history, is framed in this photo.

There, too, are our greatest achievements, our love for families and friends, our belief in ourselves, and our memories of time shared and spent well.

Our fights with our spouses, our complaints about work, about money, about neighbors, about traffic, about politicians, about taxes, about governments, about life is there. The deafening voices of billions of people in hunger and desperation, in comfort and luxury, in love and happiness, in hate and despair and billions more that have been silenced by the passage of time, all are in this single image. In these hemispheres of blue and grey.

How lonely and insignificant it must have been to be the photographer, floating from this vantage point in space, the camera as the focal point between this one man’s existence and the entirety of planet earth’s history and achievements.

And perhaps this is the way we view our life, as lonely observers refracting our thoughts against the great chaos around us, struggling to be of significance on opposite spheres of such magnitude and history.

What good is a single life when viewed from here? What meaning can be derived when our whole experience exists as a pixel on a projection, a drop of paint on an endless black canvas?


That you are here. That life exists.  

Whatever significance or insignificance you obtain on your journey spinning around this arm of the galaxy is utterly irrelevant. What matters is that you fully recognize the incredible gift you’ve been given.

What matters is that you’ve been allowed to experience these things: to see, to hear, to speak, to touch, to smell, to eat, to drink, to love, to play, and maybe even to fly into space.

You have been given life and a small pocketful of time as currency to pay your way as you see fit, and your challenge is to not waste that currency on the mundane and the repeatable, the petty and the small. 

Your challenge is to use your time to buy experiences that are daring and experimental and not those of comfort and stability. The purpose of life is simple:

Spend your time, and spend it well

~ The Mule


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