One of the reasons we go to the mountains is to remind ourselves how insignificant we are, a small dot of coloured Goretex on the enormity of a mountain face. This knowledge of our triviality is exactly what makes us feel alive, and what nurtures our mental wellbeing. We are minuscule in the beautiful vastness of the mountains. In 48 hours the UK goes to the polls to vote on whether to stay in the EU or not. Of course it’s in our interests as a company to stay, but if we don’t, we’ll adapt and continue. That’s not the point. However you choose to vote, take a moment to ignore the lies both sides of the campaign have made, and consider this…
We seek solace in the mountains. They remind us that we are inconsequential and infinitesimal. In the mountains we make friendships with others, that often last a lifetime, as the bond forged is strong when we feel so humble in such a mammoth amphitheatre. It doesn’t matter where the people are from, their colour, sex or creed. What unites us in the mountains is a shared spirit, magnified by an appreciation of where we are, and what we share.
Let’s zoom out from the mountains, and look at the beautiful photo above of Earth rise, taken from a spacecraft orbiting the moon. You can’t see any mountains on this scale, but you suddenly see the world as a vast place. Zoom out again, and the photo below was taken by the Voyager 1 probe 6 billion kilometres from Earth, as it left the solar system. Earth appears as a tiny pale blue dot, in a beam of refracted light on the right of the photo. Suddenly we can see the enormity of space, and now tiny we are. Imagine this as a photo of a mountain face, with that pale blue dot, being a climber or skier, dwarfed by the vastness of the mountain they were on.
Astronomer Carl Sagan wrote about the photo Voyager 1 took in his book ‘Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space’. His words are as resonant today, as when he wrote them in 1990, and if you are wavering about the context of your referendum vote, they will help.
“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”.
“The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. 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. 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. 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”.
Poignant and emotional words written by Carl Sagan, that help provide a context in the debate surrounding this referendum. The mountains are our pale blue dot. They themselves are a pale blue dot in the scale of the Earth, which itself is a pale blue dot in the vastness of space. It’s not for us to try and tell you which way to vote in the referendum, but Sagan’s words “momentary masters of a fraction of a dot”, apply as much to any of us striving to reach a mountain summit, as they do to those seeking to be momentary masters of an even smaller part of a dot, as the UK could be outside the EU.
One of the reasons our company was called Icicle, is that we know as humans our presence in the mountains is delicate and ephemeral. At this time, more than ever, we hope that our shared mountain spirit extends to those considering how to vote, and that considering how insignificant we are, it encourages us to remain in the EU. We are on all scales “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam”.