3-3-11 Thursday  + 4 ¼ months

Status:  A little tired this afternoon because we had to get up early for a visit to Hopkins, but overall feeling better.

Events: Lab checks were great. Platelets (the canaries in the coal mine) keep increasing, as does my hematocrit and neutrophil count.  Liver enzymes are coming down, and my skin is getting better, so it looks like this was a transient case of GVH, although still dealing with dry mouth and dry eyes.  To make sure we’re covering everything, I’ve been put on a 10 day course of Zithromax.  I found out to my distress that it shouldn’t be taken on an empty stomach!

Visited yesterday by a friend who had her own bone marrow transplant 7 years ago.  It was good to share experiences.  Had some good ideas about diet and exercise, but best of all the kids got to see a healthy person, and heard that it takes 1-2 years to be back to normal.  She also said that I was doing better than she had done at the same time period.  I’m sure that eased some of the kids’ concerns after seeing a sick Dad every day.  We both shared the fact that being away from Hopkins (our security blanket) at first was disconcerting, but now going back is a nuisance – a good transition.

Comments:  Every week or so Lisa and I make a journey to Hopkins.  The word “journey” comes from the root jour meaning day.  A journey way back when was how far you could go in a day and get safely back home.  George Carlin had a wonderful routine about the differences between baseball and football.  He said the object of baseball was to get safely back home.

At one point in my life, I was involved in a very long journey.  I was a Senior at MIT and allowed to enroll in a graduate course in Space Systems Engineering.  The entire course was to plan and execute an extraordinary space mission.  We had learned that within the next decade the planets in the solar system would line up in such a way that a properly aimed spacecraft could use each planet’s gravitational force to swingby the outer planets in what was called the Grand Tour.  I was in charge of computing the orbital trajectories since I had learned to program IBM main frame computers in high school.  What you have on your laptop now is more powerful than the huge room of machines I was working with.  We were invited to make a presentation to the big wigs at NASA, and in 1977 the Voyager 1 spacecraft was launched, and later the Voyager 2 taking extraordinary pictures of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, and their moons.

By 1990, it had reached the outer extent of the solar system, and Carl Sagan (a personal hero, and a person gracious enough to give my Mom and Dad a bottle of champagne on their anniversary) requested that NASA command the spacecraft to turn around and take a photograph of Earth across a great expanse of space.

 These are Carl’s words from his wonderful book A Pale Blue Dot:

“The spacecraft was a long way from home, beyond the orbit of the outermost planet.   The ship was speeding away from the Sun at 40,000 miles per hour.  But it was overtaken by an urgent message from Earth.

Obediently, it turned its camera back toward the now-distant planet, focusing on one spot in the sky.  It snapped the picture and stored it on its digital tape recorder.

Then slowly, it radioed back its data to Earth.  The spacecraft was 3.7 billion miles away, so far it that took each pixel 5 1/2 hours, traveling at the speed of light, to reach us.

 We succeeded in taking that picture from deep space, and if you look at it you’ll see a dot.  Because of the reflection of sunlight off the spacecraft, the Earth seems to be sitting in a beam of light, as if there is some special significance to this small world.  But it’s just an accident of geometry and optics. 

Look in the middle of the right most band of light

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 sum of our joys and sufferings, 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, 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 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.

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 and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”




18 Responses to “”

  1. Art Ulene Says:

    Wow! You made my day. Can’t wait to share this post with my grandkids. All the best….. Art

  2. Laurie Samuels Says:

    Beautifully said…. my, how it does help put things into perspective, doesn’t it? Lots of love. Feel good. Laurie

  3. Taylor Howes Says:

    I love that blue dot Bruce and all the people on it I love!!! I am so happy to hear you are doing better please give my love to Lisa and the kids!

  4. Barbara McKee Says:

    You are so incredible and hopefully you might publish this blog. There is something for everyone and especially for you, your family and all of your friends. Keep climbing that mountain back to good health. All the best!

  5. Andrea Tuttle Says:

    My sense was that you have seen that dot from the Voyager’s perspective. Welcome home! We are all sojourners on this subatomic cosmic speck but so few of us know it. Once we do understand, we can never forget it. Thanks for the this awesome post.

  6. Esperanza Says:

    Yes, it was an incredible trip with you on this post. What can I say, I’ve seen a man I have never seen before! Loving you more each day!
    Had to click on the picture to really see the dot. Everyone should

  7. Bill Israel Says:

    You, Sir, have become the philosopher king — and a lesson to us all, to love, and to appreciate. Thank you, Bruce!

  8. Henry Miller Says:

    Thank you for that lovely, poetic posting, my philosopher-engineer friend!

  9. Nada Jensen Says:

    Truly awesome post! Glad to hear that you are doing so well.

  10. Taylor Howes Says:

    I loved that theory about the blue dot and LOVE everyone I know on that dot. Family, friends, and loved ones are what keeps all of us motivated to keep positive and do whatever we can to help out our friends in need. I am SO happy to hear that you are home, feeling better and are able to be with the ones you love! Please give Lisa and the kids my love, you guys are always in my prayers everyday! Stay strong!
    Taylor 🙂

  11. joel steinberg Says:

    As the old song from the 60’s said: “We are but a moment’s sunlight, fading on the grass. Come on people, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now.” We are so glad you are getting better. You make us smile. Joel and Margaret S.

  12. courtney =) Says:

    bruce – you are awesome. thank you for always sharing your thoughts and experiences w/ us. reading your blog is always a treat.

    i continue to send good thoughts and wishes for your good health and speedy recovery.

    courtney =)

    p.s. you are truly an incredible person… friends w/ Carl Sagan and you worked on Voyager I? wow!

  13. Carolyn Hyde Says:

    Great to hear that your health continues on a positive trajectory. Also wonderful to hear from someone who can provide a “yardstick” of sorts which allows you to see the future of your good health and to know that you’re progressing well along the path back to a full recovery.

    The story illustrating perspective….told as only you can. As I’m reading this on a rainy Sunday, I just want to say thanks for giving me something very meaningful to ponder. I hope that you, Lisa, Rachel and Ethan are enjoying a warm and wonderful weekend.

  14. Diana Says:

    Thanks for sharing this one, Bruce. You’re an inspriation to all of us. The best part of that conference call last month was hearing your voice on the line.

  15. Margaret Mattson Says:

    Thanks Dan–this puts it all in perspective.
    Best wishes for a continued recovery, health and happiness.

  16. Tom Linden Says:

    What a perspective you offered, Bruce. And so eloquently stated.

  17. Blynn Bunney Says:

    Bruce, you are truly an amazing human being and add a twinkle of light to the Cosmos. Thanks for your articulate and sensitive thoughts–you are an inspiration to all of us!

  18. frank Says:

    wow. that’s an incredible post. just incredible. thanks for sharing. xf

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