Fortunately, I have determined that today is not too late to join the Carl Sagan memorial blog-a-thon. Why would I want to blog about Carl Sagan? Because he helped save my life.
In 1980, when I was 16 years old and facing some of the darkest times of my life, this absolutely amazing television show debuted: Cosmos. It was the one time every week when I would take over the television, no arguments from my mother or my brother allowed. For an hour, I was transported from the dispiriting grind of my daily existence to witness the wonder and beauty that is our universe.
Up there in the immensity of the Cosmos, an inescapable perception awaits us. National boundaries are not evident when we view the Earth from space. Fanatical ethnic, religious or national chauvinisms are a little difficult to maintain when we see our planet as a fragile blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the bastion and citadel of the stars.
This was the medicine I needed for my family’s seething rascism and hatred. It was so much more than his signature line “billions and billions of stars”—it was “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” It was the true beginnings of my spirituality. Somewhere, I still have the book version of the television show (hardcover of course). Bryan owns the DVDs, which is one of the reasons he is the love of my life.
For an hour a week, I left my daily life behind and explored the universe. That is a gift that is priceless in measure. I am immensely grateful. Aside from that aspect of things, Carl Sagan developed in me a love of cosmology and astronomy that persists to this day. He is the reason I majored in Astrophysics and the reason I attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is the reason I read Black Holes and Warped Spacetime while I was still in high school.
Carl Sagan, through his work, gave me hope when my world seemed hopeless. He showed me that my life is larger, by far, than I had ever imagined. He gave me beauty when ugly filled my world. He gave me wonder to replace my self-pity. He showed me miracles when I thought none were possible. He gave me a reason to survive.
I don’t know how my life would have unfolded had Cosmos not run on PBS that year. I am simply grateful that it did. In spite of all the difficulties I’ve endured, I know that I owe Carl Sagan a lot. Not the least of which is my current career as a technical writer for a multinational semiconductor corporation.
Thank you Carl, thank you ever so much.
Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth. Our obligation to survive is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring. — Carl Sagan
I am ever in your debt.