Carl Sagan, the Brooklyn born astrophysicist and science popularizer, was known, among other things, for declaring there were "billions and billions" of stars in the universe. Most people thought he was exaggerating, but according to a 2010 study, the cosmologically-minded Mr. Sagan was actually being quite conservative.
The number of stars in the universe, claims Yale University astronomer, Pieter van Dokkum, and Harvard astrophysicist, Charlie Conroy, is closer to 300 sextillion. That's a 3 followed by 23 zeros.
Closer to home, I've been doing my own research these days, trying to figure out how many peace organizations exist on planet Earth. Estimates vary greatly, but the most credible source I could find -- Housman's Peace Resource Project -- lists 3,330.
And that number is growing yearly -- a good thing, given the sorry state of the world.
Most of the organizations noted in the Housman database, I've never heard of. And while I'm sure they are all doing fine work, there was one that jumped right off the page for me -- Peace One Day -- an organization started in 2001 by British Filmmaker and Actor, Jeremy Gilley.
As a young man, Jeremy was frustrated, angry, and confused about all the suffering and violence going on in the world. The 1990's only deepened his despair, as armed conflicts continued to proliferate. Most of Jeremy's peers, appalled by all the bad news, either tuned out or gave up. But not Jeremy. He got serious about it.
And so began a journey to create at least one day of the year -- a fixed day -- when the world would be at peace.
Jeremy's strategy to accomplish this noble goal was both creative and quirky.
Building on his strengths, he decided to make a documentary about his efforts to establish a global day of peace, assuming, from the outset, that his efforts would fail miserably -- a failure, he reasoned, that would have a silver lining, since the story of his failed documentary could then be used to prove just how screwed up and unresponsive governments were, thereby embarrassing politicians and global leaders into getting off their partisan butts to do something about it.
And so, in 1998, Jeremy began his world-changing work in earnest. He lobbied ambassadors. He badgered UN representatives. He nagged Nobel prize winners and anyone else who might be influential in helping him establish a day of peace on earth, filming his efforts all along the way.
But a curious thing happened on the way to Jeremy's planned failure. He succeeded. Not just a little. A lot. Somehow, this former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company pulled all the right levers and spoke all the right lines -- much of them improv -- to secure a unanimous agreement by all UN member states to establish a fixed day of peace on Earth -- September 21st.
The year? 2001. The place? New York City. The day the vote was scheduled? September 11th. Jeremy was waiting to enter the United Nations for the long-anticipated vote when the planes hit the Twin Towers. The vote was postponed and everyone evacuated. High drama, to say the least.
A few days later, the UN reconvened and a vote was taken. Voila! September 21st was unanimously adopted by all countries of the United Nations as the International Day of Peace.
Since then, Jeremy has gone on to establish an NGO, Peace One Day, to campaign for global recognition and acceptance of the International Day of Peace, recruiting leading celebrities and peace makers around the world to support the effort.
Like all successful Peace Activists, Jeremy has understood that partnership is the name of the game these days -- that efforts to establish peace will only bear fruit if alliances are made with other inspired individuals and organizations with a similar passion.
Jeremy found, in Prem Rawat, a person of similar passion, an internationally-recognized "Ambassador of Peace" whom he met, in 2011, at the Peace and Well-Being Conference at the European Parliament -- a global gathering of movers and shakers where Prem was the keynote speaker.
This wasn't the first time these two peace provocateurs had met -- and it wouldn't be their last.
In May, despite both of their hectic travel schedules, Jeremy and Prem had an opportunity to reconnect, in Spain, and continue their dialogue about peace and how it might be spread.
What followed was an informal, upbeat, and profound conversation about peace and what it means to be a human being during these challenging times
"Prem is a peace warrior... like a Jedi Knight for peace. I have never met anyone like Prem. He lives peace." -- Jeremy Gilley