Book II Chapter Ten — Carl Edward Sagan
It is another beautiful morning here on the grounds of the Inn of Inspiration. One of life’s great joys is being in an environment of inspired individuals. It does not matter that we agree on everything or anything for that matter. It matters only that we follow that which we are inspired to do. Inspiration is an important element in the pursuit of one’s dreams. Writers, poets, and musicians rely on individual muses or nature for inspiration but what about scientists or mathematicians. What inspires them? The quest for knowledge and understanding or the inert need to get to the core of the equation?
“At the end of the day Socrates people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
Those words spoken to me by my friend Maya Angelou only a short while ago still reverberate in my being. How we make the other feel is love. All those I invite to share this inspiring space love one another. Jesus, Gandhi, John Lennon each said it was all we need. They were right. I want each person I have contact with to feel my love for them. Even death when he comes to greet me. My mind wanders this morning.
I am on my way to the library to meet with Carl Sagen. I am going through the back way so I can walk through the new gardens of the Poet’s Corner. I see May Sarton and May Swenson laughing like young school girls on a bench surrounded by blooming daffodils. Many saw them as competitors in their earthly days but there is no sign of competition today. All I see is the love between them.
Each time I enter this structure, I am in total amazement of the books, the silence, the smell of ink and paper, the tombs of so many lives. “I love books.” I say out loud.
“I do also,” says Carl making his appearance from between the stacks. “Books, purchasable at low cost, permit us to interrogate the past with high accuracy; to tap the wisdom of our species; to understand the point of view of others, and not just those in power; to contemplate — with the best teachers — the insights, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, drawn from the entire planet and from all of our history. They allow people long dead to talk inside our heads. Books can accompany us everywhere. Books are patient where we are slow to understand, allow us to go over the hard parts as many times as we wish, and are never critical of our lapses.”
“How true. Good morning Carl.”
“Good morning Socrates my old friend. Thank you for joining me this morning. I am anxious to show you the plans for the observatory the Providers have given permission to construct on the South Mountain.”
“Yes, I am excited to see them, but for a moment I would like to return to your statement about books. I wish there were a way to share this wealth of history and information. It just seem to me that the world has fallen into a dark state of ignorance and denial of late. Dreams are being crushed as a result.”
“The gears of poverty, ignorance, hopelessness, and low self-esteem mesh to create a kind of perpetual failure machine that grinds down dreams from generation to generation. We all bear the cost of keeping it running. Illiteracy is its linchpin…. Frederick Douglass taught that literacy is the path from slavery to freedom. There are many kinds of slavery and many kinds of freedom. But reading is still the path.”
“You are correct Carl. Thank you for your insight. You see beyond this world of ours. You look to the stars for your inspiration.”
“All of humanity is made by the atoms and the stars… our matter and our form are determined by the cosmos of which we are a part.”
“Yes, I agree Carl, but tell me more about your project.”
“The premise is a simple one Socrates. The dome of the observatory is the lens of the telescope permitting a large number of people to observe the same events at the same time. The dome becomes whatever part of the universe it is focused upon.”
“I remember a bicycle trip I took in Mexico. One night under the influence of peyote, I lay on the ground and watched the sky. The sky seemed to move around me as a half dome. I watched shooting stars disappear into the dome’s horizon.”
“That is the experience I want everyone to have. The universe spinning around each individual. That is in truth what happens each day. Once we leave those domains of human experience, there’s no reason to expect the laws of nature to continue to obey our expectations, since our expectations are dependent on a limited set of experiences.”
“So the experience I had on peyote is the reality of how the universe is to each of us. It is an endless dome sky?”
“The other unique feature of the dome of the observatory is that it will project the universe from any point in the universe. Look at this working model.”
“Is that the Earth?” I ask.
“Yes.” Carl replies. “From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
“Beautifully said Carl. You sound more like a philosopher than a scientists.”
Carl laughs. “I am a believer in Critical Thinking Socrates.”
“Okay Carl, now you are taking a page from my books. What do you say we take a stroll over to South Mountain and view the grounds for the new Observatory? We can continue our discussion on critical thinking. Fortunately it is a long walk so we will have all day.”
“You know me Socrates. If there’s a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them. I know you will find the weak links in my premise and give me an independent confirmation of the ‘facts.’”
“That you can rely on my friend. That you can rely on.”
The Gate Keeper of Inspiration: Book II Chapter Eleven — Henry David Thoreau will be published on Sunday, January 06, 2020.