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Saturday, May 10, 2014


The first time we had the opportunity to see our home, Planet Earth, from far away was in 1976, when the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft took a picture from 28,000 miles from Earth, which was named simply "Blue Marble". A beautiful ball floating in space. We can clearly see North America, the turquoise Caribbean Sea and part of South America. NASA turned the original photo upside down because this view of the Earth was "more socially accepted", since people are used to seeing Antarctica at the bottom.

Copyright © 1976 NASA

Trying to be faithfull to what the Apollo 17 crew saw, I decided to turn the photograph upside down and voilá! Now the focus is directed to the center, having Mexico as the focal point. This is what different perspectives are all about!

Copyright © 1976 NASA

Then, in 1990, Vogayer 1, which is the first human-made spacecraft to investigate interstellar space, took a picture of our planet from 4 billion miles away, on its way out of our solar system. The picture below shows what our home looks like from there (there is an arrow pointing at it): a speck of white light and probably a couple of pixels in the photo. Voyager 1 could take this picture because the sun was behind it and Earth was visible thanks to the sun's rays that illuminated it. Our Mother Earth looks so lonely in the vast darkness of space! What does this tell us about perspectives? ...In this context we are much less than the smallest known virus (porcine cicovirus or nanobes) in a tiny particle of dust!

Copyright © NASA 1990. "Earth"

Therefore, why are we so arrogant to think we can make decisions that negatively affect the fragile environment on which we depend? Why do members of the power elite think that they are better than everyone else, living on this dust particle, only because they have more rectangular pieces of paper with pictures of men on it? Looking at our pixel-sized home, doesn't it make you laugh to see us fighting among each other like enraged micro-viruses for power and control of the resources that are lightly encrusted on the surface of this granule of rock? I hope it does.

Let's continue following Voyager 1 on its way to the center of the Milky Way! 

Voyager 1 already left our solar system and is the only human-made spacecraft ever to travel so far away from home. It is already traveling between the stars in the  Milky Way. Let's zoom in and imagine where Voyager 1 could be now, taking our Sun as the departing point. 

Copyright @ 2010 NASA

From this galactic perspective, we are not even the smallest existing micro life form known to us and neither is the Earth a pixel any more. At the Galactic level, we simply stop existing altogether even from the Voyager 1 point of view.  

From this vast cosmic perspective, it is just a miracle to be alive on a tiny Blue Marble that has allowed us to exist so far. It would have been enough for Earth to be a little closer to the Sun to be incinerated or a little more far from it to be frozen. So, insignificant as we are, we are a miraculous event of synchronicity in this Universe and as such, we should be thrilled to be alive, take care of each other with love and do the same with our one and only Blue Home during the brief period of our lives. 

Copyright @ 2010 Nancy Barra"Ocean Autumn", Pastel on La Carte paper,
12" x 16", from: from:Nancy Barra Contemporary Art/Arte Contemporáneo

Looking at the stars is one of the most enjoyable, humbling, perplexing and troubling rites of humankind. Looking at the stars gives us the biggest perspective possible and triggers our curiosity, which in turn, creates in us existential anxiety. However still we keep looking at them. We are attracted by the beautiful mystery of the Cosmos. It is our way to try and gain control and reaffirm our own fragile existence and hide our atavistic fear of the unknown. 

Copyright @ 2009 Nancy Barra,"Julia in the Sky", pastel on La Carte paper, 12" x 9", from:Nancy Barra Contemporary Art/Arte Contemporáneo

Now imagine extraterrestrial beings observing our sun from another far away galaxy, millions of light-years away from us. Andromeda, our closest neighbor galaxy is 2.5 millions light-years away from us. If the Andromedans direct a laser beam from one of their nearest stars towards Earth (I do not know why they would do such a thing if they could not see us), it would take 2.5 million years to reach us. 

Imagine that if the Andromedans can see us today, it would be because they activated the laser beam towards Earth 2.5 millions ago, which would coincide with the Earth's early Pleistocene period when hominids lived on the plains of Africa. It would take the laser light 2.5 million years to reach us now as a "Blue Marble" and a supposedly "civilized" human civilization.  

Conversely, we see the Andromeda Galaxy as it was 2.5 millions years ago. Does this galaxy exist today?

Andromeda Galaxy. Credit: GALEX, JPL-CaltechNASA

A sense of magic mixed with science and philosophy happen when we look at the stars: We are seeing them in the past, since it has taken millions of years for their light to reach us in the they were! However, we do not know if they still exist since we are seeing the reflection of their past. So, the only thing we know is that in the "present now" we see the "past" of stars that maybe are already dead. This thought has always amazed me when I look at the stars.

Copyright © 2013 Nancy Barra, "Two Reflections", Cape Ann, Massachusetts.

If everything that we are able to see is defined by the speed of light in space, how much of what we see in the sky is then real? It all seems to come to the perspective we use to perceive reality or as Einstein so wisely put it, everything is relative depending on the point of view of the observer.

Copyright @ 2010 Nancy Barra, "Ocean Wave", pastel on La Carte paper, 
12" x 16", from: Nancy Barra Contemporary Art/Arte Contemporáneo 

In the end, we can zoom in or zoom out our perceptions of reality; we can rotate them up or down, but the arrow of time seems to break down when we look at the stars or they look at us. We, on Earth, like the Porcine Cicovirus or Nanobes virus are also trapped in a 3 dimensional cage, unless we believe that we are souls. We are pure consciousness, temporarily encased in a body, with the purpose  of experiencing the beauty of our Blue Marble, the love between humans and towards our planet. Also, the purpose could be to share among ourselves the mystery and beauty of all that surround us to develop our creativity, imagination, sensitivity and spirituality. Either in the big or small scheme, all this sounds to me  as a magnificent generous gift! What do you think?

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Today, May 1st, is the celebration of International Workers Day in most countries around the world. The United States opted to celebrate Labor Day in September. The paradox is that May 1st was chosen by international union workers as a way to pay tribute to the union leaders who organized a huge strike in Chicago in 1887 to struggle for an 8-hour work day. 

Four of the leaders, considered anarchists, were executed and a fifth killed himself while in jail. 600.000 workers attended their funerals. 

History is a powerful tool to awaken our conscious mind and allows us to remember and be grateful for our ancestors. Many good people have paved the way for many of us to be able to enjoy a more humanized working environment. Let's remember them and celebrate the generous hearts of these anonymous people who were left behind. Below, you can see other working people around the world. Many of the people profiled are not unionized but still they are part of the millions of people who work every day to survive and improve their lives:

In La Serena Plaza, Chile, this man, dressed neatly in a white apron, sells popcorn every day from his tricycle. He stands there the whole day, waiting for customers. Late in the evening he rides his tricycle home, hopefully with no popcorn on display.

Copyright © 2014 Nancy Barra, "The Pop Corn Seller" 

In Honduras, a woman prepares grilled meat for the customers who arrive to buy their low-cost lunches. You can see the seriousness and concentration on her face as she grills the meat to perfection outside her home. She is a mother and a professional worker, proud of her trade. 

Copyright © 2014 Nancy Barra, "The Meat Cooker".

Two Chilean workers, after a whole day of work under the sun doing landscaping, smile at the camera expressing their pride for their efforts to beautify the environment.

Copyright © 2014 Nancy Barra, "Environmental Beautifiers".

She is about to give birth, but this does not deter her from selling art and crafts with a smile on her face at a rural fair in Paihuano, Chile.

Copyright © 2014 Nancy Barra, "Creative Life".

This Czech artist is on the Charles Bridge in Prague every day painting beautiful portraits of tourists with just a carbon pencil. He loves what he does and so do his customers. 

Copyright © 2014 Nancy Barra "A Czech Artist of Prague". 

Another Czech, far away from his native Prague, is gardening in the Elqui Vally, Chile. He made a kind of turban to protect himself from the sun. After all, Mother Earth belongs to all of us and in the end, we belong to her, beyond borders, passports, skin color, sexual preferences, language or money.

 Copyright © 2014 Nancy Barra,"A Czech gardening in Chile".

Ethiopian women  waiting to be picked up so they can work in the fields. In spite of the hard work ahead, they smile with kindness and hope.

Copyright © 2014 Elizabeth Fisher, "Ethiopian Working Women".

This young woman is selling her family made organic face and body creams, manufactured with native honey, local herbs and flowers from the Elqui region in Chile. The family also made the clay containers to hold their products. I love the brand name of the products: "Mielqui", which is a fusion of two words: "Miel" (honey) and "Elqui" (name of the valley where these products are made). Her whole stand smelled of honey, jasmin and ylan-ylan  flowers. Sweet fragance all around!

Copyright © 2014 Nancy Barra,"Native Aromatique". 


 Happy International Work Day for all the people who work with their hands, minds and souls 
for a better world!