Saturday, April 07, 2007

Cosmos


One of the reasons I've been feeling uninspired this week is because I've been watching Carl Sagan's amazing 13 episode documentary, Cosmos. It really is a fantastic series and I was surprised to learn quite a lot of new information from it (despite being nearly thirty years old).

So why do I find myself uninspired, by one of the most inspiring of our species? Because Carl is just so giddy about it all. He finds wonder and beauty, where I only see a huge, old universe that cares not for our affairs.

I was trying to understand Carl's optimism and found this extract from a biography:
All his life, Carl Sagan was troubled by grand dichotomies—between reason and irrationalism, between wonder and skepticism. The dichotomies clashed within him. He yearned to believe in marvelous things—in flying saucers, in Martians, in glistening civilizations across the Milky Way. Yet reason usually brought him back to Earth. Usually; not always. A visionary dreams of a better world than this one. He refuses to think that modern society and its trappings—money, marriage, children, a nine-to-five career, and obeisance to a waving flag and an inscrutable God—are all there is. Sagan was blinded, but not by these. He was blinded by the sheer glory of the new cosmos that was unveiled by science during the first two decades of his life. This cosmos was an ever-expanding, unbounded wonderland of billions of galaxies. And across the light-years, Sagan dreamed, random molecular jigglings had perhaps spawned creeping, crawling, thinking creatures on alien landscapes bathed in the glow of alien suns.
And I found this sentence from a NY Times review of two biographies of Carl:
Both books delight in the discovery that Sagan smoked bales of marijuana and attributed to the weed vital moments of intellectual inspiration.
So Carl Sagan was another who wanted to get high and sail the stars. In Cosmos he is a happy chappy dreamer which is all well and good, but even Hunter S. Thompson, blew out his brains in the end:
"No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax — This won't hurt"