Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Pale Blue Dot

For Christmas this year, I received a superb book.
← The Varieties of Scientific Experience.
Written by Carl Sagan.

The subtitle is A Personal View of the Search For God.
The book is an edited transcript of the Gifford Lectures on Natural Theology, presented by Sagan in 1985, at the University of Glasgow.
I am just past the halfway point in this book and finding it to be endlessly relevant and fascinating to me, especially after the events of my New Year. I needed something to sort of set my mind back on a reasonable track -- after asking myself so many questions about existence, life, death, and purpose, over these past couple of weeks.
Some people may find it confusing that I can gain spiritual sustenance from a book like this. But I find something strangely beautiful about the perspective that Sagan presents in these pages.
What a timely gift.
The chapter I just finished this evening, ended with these words:

When you buy a used car, it is insufficient to remember that you badly need a car. After all, it has to work. It is insufficient to say that the used-car salesman is a friendly fellow. What you generally do is you kick the tires, you look at the odometer, you open up the hood. If you do not feel yourself expert in automobile engines, you bring a friend who is. And you do this for something as unimportant as an automobile. But on issues of the transcendent, of ethics and morals, of the origin of the world, of the nature of human beings, on those issues should we not insist upon at least equally skeptical scrutiny?

And speaking of perspective, please take a moment to listen to this wonderful clip.
The Pale Blue Dot.



Isabella K said...

That clip is beautiful, Cip. Humbling. Thanks. I needed that.

Beth said...

That video was moving, thought-provoking and provided some much-need perspective.
Does it make any kind of sense that it both inspired and made me sad?

Cipriano said...

It is a great little clip, and a terrific book.
There was a time in my life when I actually said to a good friend of mine [who was trying to SAGANIZE© me...] "Carl Sagan should stick to what he knows, astronomy or whatever, and leave theology alone!"
Looking back now, and reading the guy..... I realize what a bonehead I used to be.
Actually, I am still sort of a bonehead, but like LESS of one... you know?
Beth, I actually think that your response makes perfect sense.
Inspiration is not always a "happy" thing.
Reality, whatever else it is, will always be a MIXTURE of sadness and joy.

Rebecca H. said...

I've had my eye on the Sagan book for a while, and I'm glad to hear you are getting a lot out of it. I think that's a good sign I might like it too.