Sunday, June 03, 2007

Seeking Inspriration

My recent ponderings on religion and politics has left be rather saddened. Feeling a need to escape to something more uplifting I have returned to topic of research that has always left be with a profound sense of awe and wonder, astronomy.
Currently I have checked out several books, DVDs and books on tape on the subject. At Ray's suggestion I have just about everything I can find by Brian Greene including
The fabric of the cosmos : space, time, and the texture of reality on CD and in print and The Elegant Universe : superstrings, hidden dimensions, and the quest for the ultimate theory in book and DVD. For about a month now I've been working on Is Pluto a planet?: a historical journey through the solar system by David A. Weintraub. I've also been reading The Varieties of Scientific Experience: a personal view of the search for God by Carl Sagan as I find the time. All of these have been very enjoyable even when they frequently test my ability to comprehend. However, the greatest source of joy came from another DVD.
I had a particularly disappointing morning. A situation at church resulted in a decision I had made being overruled without even given a consultation in favor of what I believe to be simply hypocritical obedience to the fourth commandment. Rather than just sit and stew over it I went to the library and picked up Carl Sagan's Cosmos on DVD. They just got a copy of the newly remastered original series that was run on PBS in the early 80s. Victoria and I sat down and watched the first 3 episodes back to back. I will likely watch the rest in similar fashion. Many of Sagan's descriptions and examples had me literally in tears because they were so profound.
I first watched this series when it originally aired with my father. I remember then walking away from the shows and just wanting to look up and gaze at the stars. Sagan has a certain manner about him when he describes and explains science. No matter how old he is he seems like a 5-year old boy telling you about the fascinating things that he found at the local pond. He never seemed to loose that sense of wonder and admiration for all of nature. And he had an incredible way of inspiring the same wonder in me.
In books of religion or politics they seem to be a list of answers. Basically these are our interpretation of what the truth is. There doesn't seem to be any room to ask questions. The only questions permitted are simply "how are you going to change your life to fall in line?". Science on the other hand seems to be fascinated with the questions, particularly the questions for which we still don't know the answers. In many other subjects this admission of your own ignorance would be a source of distrust and cause a loss of faith. For me at least these unanswered questions inspire and prompt me to personally strive for greater understanding. Whether in print or on video few have inspired me more than Carl Sagan. I never seem to grow tired of reading his work.
I find it ironic that in the past few years I have gained so much comfort and peace and had my spirituality increased by a self described agnostic. Religious faithful are quick to shun intellectuals, scientists, agnostics and atheists as arrogant and evil. I have never felt this from Dr. Sagan. Quite the contrary, his naturalistic explanations of the cosmos have more humility than anything I have ever heard from the pulpit.
My brother is very fond of putting things to the "fruits test". Based on the scriptures that say "by their fruits you shall know them". Sagan passes the fruits test with flying colors. Whether he's teaching about humility, stewardship, or how to love your fellow man he consistently showed us all that there is a better way. Thanks to him I will always look at this pale blue dot that we live on and the whole of the cosmos with a much more profound reverence.
I have heard that there is a toy store near that campus of Cornell University that sells individual pale blue marbles. And that if you drive just a mile of so away to Carl's grave you'll find and abundance of those marbles, each one placed on the headstone as a silent thank you for the impact that Carl had on that person's life. I would like to add two marbles to that pile, one for myself and one for my father who was also inspired by Carl and taught me to never stop asking questions.

1 comment:

  1. I decided to pick up my copy of the Elegant Universe and try to actually finish it this time. As I started at page one and worked through section one this weekend, I personally found hints of acknowledgement of divine influence in Greene's writing. I'll be the first to admit that it is my own biases that are influencing that perspective, but as I read the section on the strong force and weak force and how delicate the balances are that keep the molecular building blocks of the universe in tact it strengthens my own belief that all of this is divinely constructed and not some extreme cosmic coincidence.

    I look forward to your review. Thus far I am enjoying the book.