Thanks to Jeremy Snead’s documentary about video games, Weird Al’s invasion of the Internet, and the resurrection of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, this is turning out to be the year of the geek.
Q: What book motivates or influences you most in life?
A: “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan was more influential to me than any book I’ve ever read. It reawakened the spirituality inside me, opened my eyes to the wonders of science, gave me a sense of self, helped me appreciate all life on Earth, and laid the foundation for the human being I have become. It is one of the greatest books ever written and should be read (or viewed) by everyone on the planet.
What happens when you mix art, poetry, music, science, philosophy, and genius? This video. Easily one of the greatest videos I’ve ever seen. I haven’t felt this numinous since I first read Cosmos. I can’t thank the author of this video enough, and I look forward to enjoying more like it. If you only watch one video this week, this is the one you should see.
Information is important to Life, and Earth is positively rippling with both.
Quasi-intelligent beings that never see the light of day live on inside us,
While mindless molecular machines copy our biological biography
With the guided precision of a skilled craftsman.
All living creatures store libraries of information in their genes,
But many beings are graced by the presence of a brain.
It slowly developed, layer upon layer,
modern primate upon
transitional mammal upon
ancient reptile upon
In the shadowy, wrinkled valleys of the cerebral cortex,
An incredible bit of magic takes place,
When a collection of simple matter
Suddenly achieves consciousness.
This unsightly mass of soft gray tissue is the platform
From which all thinking creatures launch.
It is the facilitator of all we have created,
From spears to gods, from civilizations to rockets.
We may have been once been limited to sounds and words to relay our experiences,
But fortunately we have been given artists and authors to do that for us.
Of all the creations of humanity, writing is par excellence.
People from all over the world and throughout history reach out to us.
The voice of someone, perhaps long dead, speaks directly to us;
One of the greatest genuine magic tricks.
Our family, if we turn to the dusty, ancient pages of prehistory,
Began simply and humbly in the oceans of a cooling rock in some insignificant space.
Our self-replicating ancestors multiplied and diversified
Until there came a lucky group, eventually to become rat-like creatures who,
After avoiding the dinosaurs, ascended to the trees, and the primates were born.
Some of them grew tired of swinging in the forests, and climbed down again,
Freeing their hands, and expanding their minds.
With rapidly evolving abilities, they domesticated fire, and then each other.
Then they invented writing and other arts, war, and eventually medicine.
Our technology has given us the ability to write, sing, paint, kill and heal.
The Milky Way could be home to countless thinking beings,
I often wonder what it is they know, and what they can know.
In this vast, strange sea of cold, empty space, can their wisdom reach us?
Unfortunately, when we choose to venture spaceward,
Our arrival will be preceded by centuries of Earthling transmissions,
A few actively sent, but most passively broadcast by our media.
Fortunately, our messages will probably be indecipherable,
But, at the very least, they will recognize the signal as being of intelligent origin,
So we must continue to at least try, because it is the persistence of memory.
Before the Sun rose and set in the sky of Earth,
A giant blue-green rock spun lazily around its star.
Then a being, mostly calling itself Man,
Gave names to these gods of the ground and sky.
Our solitary sun floats with its family of planets.
A grain of sand in a beach too massive to exist on Earth.
It may feel like the north and south poles are a world away,
But they are the same place on a cosmic scale.
At night, stars fill the skies with glittering glowing furnaces,
Patterns form and we are helpless to resist seeing pictures.
Our minds are encouraged by our nature to draw pictures
Of dogs and dippers, warriors and women.
We place what is important here on Earth up with the gods,
A reference point for cousin Rorschach, perhaps.
The thumbprint of our sky reveals our place in the Cosmos,
As it would if we visited a place completely alien to us.
Eons after our distant descendants have lived and died,
Our skies will appear wholly different from the one we know today.
The concreteness of the constellations is merely an illusion,
As our short life-spans makes it impossible to watch this movie.
Even at the speed of God, light still takes its time
Traversing distances that He understands better than We.
When these ancient rays make their final destination,
We see them as they were before history existed.
The fountain of youth can be found at high speeds,
When time slows, though you’d be too busy to notice.
A long journey like that would necessarily be one-way,
For those who are left behind will have aged and died before you return.
Cousin Albert would say, if he could, that is,
That there is nothing special about your perspective except you.
Viewing the universe depends on your observation,
But every place is as good as every other place.
Sometimes relativity is Greek to me, and sometimes it’s written in Grecian.
But it is a great fantasy, exploring worlds that never were.
Ethereal lights in the sky, unexplainable phenomena,
And alleged astronauts older than any nation
Lead many to believe we’re inundated with uninvited guests.
Though I wish it were so, it probably just isn’t true.
It could be that we have not been discovered,
And our xenophobia causes us to see lights in the sky.
Besides, if a race of alien beings did arrive one night,
What could we do to stop them?
Our predisposition to fear the unknown is something that
We share with our Earthling cousins, as part of our biology.
Our fears are usually unfounded, but that doesn’t mean they’re not real,
And a universal experience for intelligent Earthlings.
Our guilty consciences project our own backwardness upon us
And we assume that different necessarily means threatening.
Cousins Kepler and Newton, among many others, revealed to us
Laws that make a criminal out of no one.
Virtually endless bands of light can be devoted to communication.
Light’s spectrum is wider than our eyes can detect,
Radio is just an abysmally deep red, too dark for our eyes.
If an alien society discovered part of the spectrum,
Could they not understand them all?
There could be at this moment, a creature very different from us,
Peering into their night sky, looking at a point of light we call the Sun.
Does it occur to them that there may be another living being?
For them, is it such ridiculous conjecture?
If we are to communicate with beings from around the Cosmos,
We must be sure to listen rather than speak.
They are probably more advanced than we,
Acquired much more knowledge and infinitely much more wisdom.
Several times, we have almost destroyed ourselves,
Who is to say that we have indefinitely escaped that fate?
If self-destruction is the galactic norm, we may have no one to talk to
Except for one another. And that is something we do poorly.
Is it a sad thing that we put money into something called a Destroyer,
When at the same time we fund things like the Voyager probes.
The fruits of a battleship are sour and poisonous
But the search for life in not unfounded.
© 1999-2022 Eric P. Metze