A few days ago one of my students asked me what I was reading. “Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium,” I told him, “it was written by my hero, Carl Sagan.”
“Your hero?” he asked, “none of my heroes are authors.” Well, it turns out both of my heroes are authors, Carl Sagan and Thomas Jefferson. I write here about Carl.
On December 20th we will have traveled around the sun eleven times without him. Even though I share this planet with over six and a half billion other human beings, I still feel lonely knowing that he is not one of them. He left us with some enormous shoes to fill and, thus far, they remain empty. With him gone, nuclear disarmament is almost never discussed; today's politicians have gone as far as to say that “no option is off the table,” (read: “I am willing to use a nuclear first strike against our enemies”). Words can not express my horror at these unimaginable practices! Here in the dark, without Carl, there has been no clear voice speaking out against these policies.
As science advisor to Congress, Carl steered the country in the right direction. Encouraging funding for research and science education. Without him, science programs are losing funding, including NASA, with their now 35 year old shuttle program. As the world moves deeper into a scientific and technological era, our country is sliding back into a dark ages. Carl, we need your light.
Nearly every morning I listen to Carl reading his Reflections on a Mote of Dust. I can not think of a better way to begin ones day. If everyone understood his message, and listened to it every day, can you imagine the world we would build? Can you imagine a world with no need for fear, no need for war--a world where we strive to understand everyone instead of kill each other? I get goosebumps every time I hear him read, “Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.”
Our fragile, pale blue dot rests in a great, enveloping, cosmic dark; made darker than ever with the loss of my hero, Carl Sagan.