“Books….permit us to interrogate the past….”

In a chapter titled “The Path to Freedom,” part of his 1995 book “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark”, Carl Sagan observes that “For 99 percent of the tenure of humans on earth, nobody could read or write.” This meant that “Except for first-hand experience, almost everything we knew was passed on by word of mouth.”

As books emerged, and literacy with it, civilisation changed. Carl’s thoughts on this yield much when one ponders over them.

“Books,” Carl writes, “permit us to interrogate the past with high accuracy; to tap the wisdom of our species; to understand the point of view of others, and not just those in power; to contemplate — with the best teachers the insights….of the greatest minds that ever were, drawn from the entire planet and from all of our history.”

Carl then adds:

“Books can accompany us everywhere. Books are patient where we are slow to understand, allow us to go over the hard parts as many times as we wish, and are never critical of our lapses.”

In the 1917 novel “Parnassus on Wheels” by Christopher Morley, we listen to the travelling book-seller — “when you sell a man a book you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue—you sell him a whole new life.”

Peace 😊

“The vastness of the universe — and love, the thing that makes the vastness bearable….”

A few days ago, NASA published an update on the Great Red Spot, a storm that is seen as a speck over Jupiter.

The Hubble Space Telescope relayed images indicating that the storm is now about 9,800 miles long — “big enough to swallow Earth”, NASA tells us, and based on “telescopic observations dating back to 1930”, it is shrinking. Some believe that the storm has been in existence for over 300 years!

In an October 2019 Scientific American piece titled “How Mere Humans Manage to Comprehend the Vastness of the Universe”, Sophie Evans quotes the Princeton University Astronomer Robert Lupton: “We are “blinded by being human when we look at something larger than the human experience.”

In “Cosmos: Possible Worlds”, the sequel to Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos”, his companion Ann Druyan writes that “The vastness of the universe — and love, the thing that makes the vastness bearable — is out of reach to the arrogant.” She goes on: “If the series of pilgrimages toward understanding our actual circumstances in the universe, the origin of life, and the laws of nature are not spiritual quests, then I don’t know what could be.” 

Peace 😊