It’s a common misconception that the mythological Atlas (Greek and Roman) held up the Earth; in fact, he held up the universe. He was a Titan, and therefore punished when the Olympians defeated their predecessors. Most Titans were sent to Tartarus, but Atlas was sent to the edge of the Earth to hold up the heavens, forever relegated to uphold the celestial realm. He is also the god of astronomy and navigation. I find this distinction between our planet and the rest of the universe is crucial, because on the mythological level, we have always had the understanding that the Earth is but a starting point for our concept of creation. While our word “atlas” refers to maps of this planetary geography, Atlas’s mythic presence encourages exploration beyond the sphere of our understanding, which is always changing with the development of new technologies.
Technological development is a part of the creative impulse. It is an essential and archetypal behavior for humans. From the beginning of its existence, humankind has picked up various resources and tried to figure out how to use them. Over time, depending on which philosophy you subscribe to or what your definition of “human” is, about 100,000 years later we were able to take a picture that is arguably one of the most profound images that represents human progress, and how we are able to place ourselves in the universe. Behold, Earthrise:
But I’m getting way ahead of myself.
What I really wanted to tell you about is my husband, and his job. Robert works for a company that is building rockets, specifically rockets that will one day take humans into space. Yes, some may counter that our resources could be used for more charitable or useful means, but l stand in the line supporting exploration. The creative spirit is undaunted: fearless and prolific in its power of imagination. I think that it’s important as we are hurrying thither and yon in a seemingly rote rendition of daily life, that we remember that we are, in fact, intrepid. We can design, build, and create the stuff of dreams. What good is it if we aren’t exploring? Why not look to the stars, the universe, the beyond, to find out exactly where we are, exactly how far we can go and what we can see? Space seems to be a place where we are only human, but a resident of this planet. When I see the picture of Earth taken from the moon, I see possibility. I see what we can achieve, where our talents can take us. If we can take that picture, think about our potential for creating, understanding and considering this place as home, and not the entirety of what we know. Since Atlas is bothering to hold it up there, perhaps we should consider going; that is, our collective unconscious sometimes is beckoning from an unknown place.
That picture is very inspiring! We can’t help ourselves, can we? And I’m glad.
You have drawn a clear link between imagination and its ability to
actually morph into something tangible. Now I see that we can create stories
and speculate about the unknown and have it lead to things that can be seen and
felt. That is comforting for concrete thinkers like me.
From: Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space by Carl Sagan
“Look again at 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.