The Pale Blue Dot

I want to tell you a story. Two years ago, an opportunity presented itself and I had some time off from work. So, I packed up my car and took a month-long road trip by myself to see the country. It was an amazing trip – fire, as the cool kids say – it was the trip of a lifetime, one that I would absolutely recommend to anyone.

Lemme tell you a few things about this trip to give you perspective and set the stage. I had beer in Asheville, bourbon in Tennessee, steak in Texas, a shockingly good burrito in Utah, and a big slice of fresh, homemade strawberry rhubarb pie with a shitty cup of coffee in a roadside diner in Idaho.

I visited the Oklahoma City Bombing memorial where 168 people lost their lives in 1995.

I stood on the steps of Central High School in Little Rock, AR where the National Guard and the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army escorted 9 black kids to class while the entire world watched in 1957.

I hiked the frigid waters of the Narrows in Zion National Park, which was one of 9 National Parks I visited on that trip. I saw Old Faithful and Mount Rushmore. I stood on the continental divide. I smelled the fresh air in the Rocky Mountains, I listened to the sound of absolute silence in the Arizona desert, I swam in a pristine lake at sunrise in Utah. I watched a rodeo in Wyoming and weathered a terrible storm on the Missouri river in South Dakota. I had way too much to drink in Jackson Hole, and not enough to drink in Minnesota.

I sang country music, which I didn’t even like at the time, at the top of my lungs with the convertible top down on a long country road. I pushed my speedometer past 135 mph. I grew a beard. I bought a great hat. I even fell in love.

It… was… the trip of a lifetime. Really.

I’m telling you all this because I have two favorite memories from that trip. First, obviously, was connecting with the amazing and incomparable Beth Wells… the woman I later married. The second was camping in the Utah desert under the most amazing sky. There’s no sight quite like looking up at the Milky Way. It’s times like this, trips like this, that really make you think. You connect with yourself in ways you never have before. It’s like finding yourself.

Have you ever thought about what really matters in this world? It’s a deep question worth pondering. Staring up at the stars in the Utah desert reminded me of a photo I once saw of planet Earth (it’s the feature photo on this post). It was taken by Voyager 1 as it exited the solar system, from 4 billion miles away. In that photo, Earth is a barely perceptible speck.

The astrophysicist, Carl Sagan, once said of the pale blue dot that is planet earth in the photo, “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.”

Those are the words of Sagan, but it really gives you perspective, doesn’t it? When I think about what really matters in life, what comes to mind for me is fulfillment, joy, love, finding passions, setting goals, following dreams. I only get one chance to do life on this pale blue dot, and I’m gonna make the best of it.

You know what gives me that feeling of fulfillment? You know what I love? You know what brings me joy? It’s writing. Teaching. Talking to you. Hearing other people’s stories. Sharing experiences. Connecting with the world around me. That’s why I started this podcast.

Today’s topic was a bit of tangent, a teaser for what’s to come, but I wanted to share with you a little about me and why I’m starting this experiment of a podcast. I hope you’ll keep listening. I have some great stuff lined up for you.

In the next couple of episodes, I’m going head first into the deep end. The topic is gonna be “What’s happening in neuromonitoring?” This is gonna be something you REALLY want to hear, no matter your role in IONM because I’m going to be covering perspectives of neuromonitorists, oversight professionals, managers, executive-level leaders, and everyone in between. I hope you’ll join me, and tell your workmates.

In the meantime, if you have ideas for episodes, specific topics, OR… if you have something you’d like to share in an interview, please leave a comment below or send an email to [email protected]. I’d love to hear from you!

I’m Rich Vogel, and that is Stimulating Stuff!

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