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mindLook After Your Mind 9
Chilli Chicken Stirfry and the Pale Blue Dot

Uplifting insights can come in all shapes and sizes. I enjoy Chinese food and years ago bought myself a wok to try my hand at stir-frying and other Oriental cooking techniques. A couple of weeks ago I decided to make myself a chilli chicken stirfry. When I was preparing the peppers I happened to notice from the labelling that my green pepper came from Spain while my red pepper came from Holland. Intrigued, I looked at the packaging for the other ingredients: Eggs, chicken, celery and shallots from Britain; root ginger from Costa Rica; chilli sauce from Thailand; soy sauce from China; sesame seeds and sesame oil, Singapore; corn oil and cornflour, USA and rice from Pakistan…

Then I investigated the kitchen utensils and other equipment I was using and discovered that the wok came from China (naturally enough); kitchen roll, dishcloth and kitchen knife from Britain, cutlery from Korea, bowls from Japan and kitchen scissors from Italy.

The feeling I took from doing this was one of amazement at the huge production and transportation network that had brought all of these things into my kitchen so that I could make my tea. But more profoundly came the sense of togetherness I felt (trade wars and tariff squabbles aside!) that so many people and systems could mesh to make the whole thing work. A small world indeed, I thought.

The message hit home again that evening when, coincidentally, I came across a book on my shelf that I’d read years ago. It’s called ‘Pale Blue Dot’ and was written by the late scientist and visionary Carl Sagan. The title comes from a photograph taken in February 1990 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft, looking back at Earth from a distance of 3.7 billion miles. The image shows the dark vastness of space, floating in which is a tiny blue speck caught amongst bands of sunlight reflected in the camera. The speck of course is Earth, which in the photograph is less than one pixel in size.

Sagan himself asked that the picture be taken after Voyager 1 had fulfilled its primary mission. Later, in his well-known TV series ‘Cosmos’, Sagan said, “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… on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Humbling indeed, and something I will never again take for granted.

Click here to read more articles in the series 'Look After Your Mind' by Steve Bowkett

Steve Bowkett.
Issue 405
October 2018

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