The song goes like this:
There are 8 planets
In the solar system
It’s a terrible song and it plays on repeat in my house because I have a toddler who enjoys <strike> torturing me </strike> learning things on YouTube.
I remember when Pluto was demoted from “planet” to “dwarf planet” in 2006. What. A. Scandal! It happened while I was in college and I remember thinking, “WHAAT,” and then moving on with my life.
In the 14 years since, I’ve taken no time to investigate the issue or try to understand what happened or why. That is, until this month when this song got stuck in my head a loop:
There are 8 planets,
In the solar system
THERE ARE NINE!! I heard my head scream back. THERE ARE NINE PLANETS. MY VERY EDUCATED MOTHER JUST SAT UPON NINE PORCUPINES EVERYONE KNOWS THIS.
Whel then. Apparently, my insides have a very strong opinion about Pluto.
Which was puzzling as I’d never so much as given this 14-year controversy a second thought until this song came on.
Every time I heard the phrase “8 planets,” I wanted to correct it.
“There are nine.”
THERE ARE NINE!
There are not nine.
I’ve often wondered when the moment would come when I would stop integrating new information into my brain. When I’d become the curmudgeon sitting on her lawn with a shotgun, complaining about “kids these days.”
Apparently, this was that moment.
I watched myself begin to lecture my toddler, “In my day, there were NINE planets.” OH GOD WHAT WAS HAPPENING TO ME.
Quickly, in desperation, I did what any good student of Dwek would do (quite literally btw, my thesis advisor was her grad student): I Googled.
WHAT. HAPPENED. TO. PLUTO.
It wasn’t until I stumbled upon a talk Niel deGrasse Tyson gave at Tulane in 2014 that I found the answer. Not about Pluto, but about wtf was happening to my brain.
In his talk titled, “Pluto (Get over it),” Dr. Tyson shares some of the hate mail he received from ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENTS, protesting his exclusion of the dwarf-planet from the Hayden Planetarium exhibit. And now I have to share them with you because they’re hilarious and they explain everything:
“If you make it a planet again, all the science books will be right.”
“Do people live on Pluto? If people live on Pluto, they won’t exist. Why can’t Pluto be a planet?”
“Some people like Pluto. And if it doesn’t exist then they don’t have a favorite planet.”
All excellent points.
My favorite part is this letter ends with a plea for Dr. Tyson to write back, “but not in cursive because I can’t read in cursive.” (💛 Swoooooon)
This kid gets an A+ for standing his ground and challenging authority by probing deeper. You should never accept new information on face value. Well done, kid. Well done.
That said….when the results of your investigation lead to answers you don’t like or want…you still have to accept them (or integrate them and continue to probe).
Letting go of nine planets isn’t the same as letting go of happy childhood memories, but I was conflating the two. Often, when we double down on the familiar past we are rejecting the unfamiliar present.
And we close the door to what’s possible.
Holding on to what’s familiar on the basis that it’s familiar leaves us marinating in contempt. Because familiarity breeds contempt. You hold onto what’s familiar, you hold onto contempt.
Things are unfamiliar until they become familiar, but we often refuse to sit in the discomfort between the two for long enough to traverse the path from one to the other.
When we encounter the unfamiliar, what we know isn’t really being challenged – it’s being updated. Updated with new, often better, and more accurate information.
This is a beautiful thing.
There are 8 freaking planets. 8 planets. In the solar system.