11th hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month – 99th anniversary of the end of WWI

“Humanity is mad! It must be mad to do what it is doing. What a massacre. What scenes of horror and carnage! I cannot find words to translate my impressions. Hell cannot be so terrible! Men are mad!”

– French Second Lieutenant Alfred Joubaire, aged 21, last entry in his diary, dated 23 May 1916, after which he was killed by a German shell at Verdun.

– Carl Sagan, ‘The Pale Blue Dot’, 1994

It was agreed that the war would cease at precisely the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – 11 am on 11th November 1918. 

Second Lieutenant Alfred Joubaire

Just before he died, French Second Lieutenant Alfred Joubaire wrote in his diary about WWI that “Humanity is mad! It must be mad to do what it is doing. What a massacre. What scenes of horror and carnage! I cannot find words to translate my impressions. Hell cannot be so terrible! Men are mad!”

The Society of African Missions also lost men, serving as chaplains, during the madness of ‘The War to End all Wars’, as we reported on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

To mark the occasion of the 99th anniversary of the ending of WWI, we have chosen to publish a very moving reflection by the late U.S. astronomer, Carl Sagan. Sagan was involved in the Voyager I project and just as the unmanned spacecraft was about to pass beyond the planet Saturn, he requested that it turn around and take a photograph of the earth. The image it created, of a pale blue dot, inspired this reflection.

It is both sad and troubling to think that WWI was but the precursor of WWII and that since 1945 we have witnessed endless territorial conflicts across the globe, fuelled by religious, political and economic disputes which, increasingly, consume the lives of innocent civilians, especially children.  

Our ‘Pale Blue Dot’ photographed by Voyager I in 1994

From the perspective of the insignificance of our ‘Pale Blue Dot’ in the vastness of the Cosmos, those disputes are folly and call us to a deeper humanity, rooted in humility, and “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.”

As Sagan reminds us:

“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, in glory and triumph, 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, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.”

On this, the 99th anniversary of the ending of WWI, we invite you to watch the following short but profound film, narrated by the American scientist and astronomer, Carl Sagan, entitled ‘The Pale Blue Dot’. The text of Sagan’s reflection may be accessed by clicking here.