Carl Sagan is my spirit animal

• ~600 words • 2 minute read

Update 2019: I've recently learned that calling something your "spirit animal" as I did here is a type of cultural appropriation. It makes complete sense and I regret having never considered this or been aware at the time I wrote this. I initially considered removing it from the title and URL but thought, for now, maybe adding this notice would do more to educate others who might also be unaware.

I'm watched Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey on television last night. It's something of a reboot of Carl Sagan's pioneering Cosmos: A Personal Journey from circa 1980. This time around it features the endearingly earnest Neil deGrasse Tyson as he takes us an a journey through space and time, touching on the origins of... well, a everything!

It's nice to see this series revived for a new generation. I did not discover the original Cosmos until quite a bit later in my life. It came out a bit before I was born and though it seems vaguely like something I may have watched in school, I have no recollection of it from my youth. Still, having been introduced to the older version first, there is an inevitable comparison to make. Nostalgia grants such things an unfair advantage.

Whereas the new version has an an advantage in terms of production values and decades of updated scientific knowledge to draw from the original featured the inimitable Carl Sagan. To say the man spoke on matters of science eloquently would be an understatement, I feel. There is a rich cadence to Carl Sagan's voice that I miss. It's melodic and soothing. The way he spoke could read almost like poetry:

“Look again at 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.”

You can listen/watch him speak these words here  ((Accompanied by the delightfully trippy and dated soundtrack)). It's only a minute or two. Even better to hear than read I think.

Sagan's voice could lull me to sleep an briefly did for a stretch of my life. I'd flip on a random episode of the Cosmos and let it play quietly in the background while I nodded out around 4am, slowly repeating the words in my head after he said them. It was meditative. It soothed me. He was equal parts scientist and poet ((Myy favorite title of the 13-part series: One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue. An episode looking at the development of life on earth and the probability of life elsewhere in the universe.))

Does the new version of Cosmo move me similarly? Not quite yet, but it just started. It may take a revisit or two on my on terms, without commercial breaks and similar distractions, to truly know. There is still time.