This I Believe

Ellen - Lexington, Kentucky
Entered on September 5, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: place
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe in Pluto. Planet or no, Pluto is me. Pluto is you.

When I was a second grader in 1967, when boots grinding moon dust were science fiction–or daydreams, or Monday morning plans–Pluto was one of my loves, my nine. I needed no mnemonic for their names:

Mercury, the bullet;

Venus, rock boiling in milk;

Earth, ornate hotel that scrooged my rent;

Mars, vein-ripped but embalmed;

Jupiter, scarlet eye glaring, and Saturn, bangled cool;

Uranus, stunned unaccountably on its side, and Neptune—frigid, but fat.

And Pluto, the tiny one in wilderness, titanic with the romance of the remote.

Those days, I felt the planets impossibly close, as if the inner planets were my ribs and the outer ones my dreams—and Pluto was my cold and dirty little hands. I stapled booklets of typing paper in my father’s office and inked out stories of astronauts flying like superheroes to step on a tenth planet, beyond. We, the surely soon-to-be-united human race, had flags to plant, had business to do, beyond. Pluto was the pointing, numb fingertip of the known. I still smell that incense, the purple holiness I assigned in my soul to Pluto’s foggy ground.

Even then, I read science about Pluto and knew what it is: a gray little baseball, far away. I loved it still. So small and fleeting was I, I could not hope to live through even a third of its scheduled round. I found out that, were I to set my boots on Pluto, our blazing sun would be but one glimmer among scores and scores and scores. I might have no idea I was orbiting a star—or of them, which?

And is this not how I am? Mystery is my only pivot. We search, and sometimes we find that well-plotted map and navigate true. But are we not later bedazzled and lost?

My belief assumes a universe that must create in order to know. And that smoke-dark iceball, Pluto—how can it but mirror? The universe stands stunned in that scarred and primitive glass, and so do you and I. I believe that it is holy—at least for a moment, here and there in the cacophony of life—to let one’s soul settle, on Pluto.

In my childhood, I thought of Pluto as a dark jet-fighter gem—careening beyond all the gaudiness of Jupiter and Saturn, beyond the narcosis of Neptune and Uranus, veering above and below the ecliptic plane like a teenager drunk—whipping donuts that turned the solar system’s parking lot on its ear.

But I did what we do: I grew up. I am a world among myriads, groping for my proper star as I slide down anonymous dark—adoring, still, that jewel-stuck and fathomless dark.

Why do we care about Pluto and its fortune, its name? Because we care about our own. We grieve, feeling our crown knocked away. But we protest too, and fight—for Pluto flies, undeniable. No matter what its rank or its name, it flies. And so, do you and do I.