Let’s start the month out with a bang. Or, as may be the case here, a BIG BANG.
Aside from seeing the occasional image of this goofy looking man with the big ears and bad hair standing next to various probes that NASA sent out during the 1970s, I did not put much to Carl Sagan. He was just, from my young point of view, another one of the guys that made the things go up and take pictures.
Then, on one quiet evening in September, 1980… my world was rocked. PBS had started a new series called COSMOS, with it’s host… none other than Dr. Carl Sagan. The first episode was Shores of the Cosmic Ocean.
It was not the fact that he was hosting it or the show by itself. It was the WAY he spoke to me, and when you watched the show, you actually did feel like he was speaking to you, personally. He shared not only the facts and the information, but he imparted his love for science in every show.
So… every new episode I would sit, riveted to the TV hanging on every word he uttered and absorbing every fact that he shared. And thus my love… no, my LUST for science was born. I could no longer look at the world and take everything for granted… I had to know why things were the way they were. I had to understand everything.
There were not enough books that I could read or articles to examine by Carl for me. Every time he gave a speech, I would find a way to hear it. Any time there was an article in a paper, I was at the library trying to find it so that I could read it. What makes these especially a challenge, for those of you who do not recall a time before the internet, is that when I was doing this, I had to go to the library and look much of this up on cards or in magazines or on, dare I say… the dreaded microfiche. It was not as easy as it is today to simply pull up Google and do a search.
It was, in part, because of Carl Sagan that I… and yes, it is one of the few things I am embarrassed to admit, took part in a March Against Nuclear Arms. Somewhere there is a picture of me, carrying a sign in downtown Bakersfield, trying to abolish nuclear weapons. I guess you could say that I was there and then, officially, a hippie.
But the most important thing I learned from him was the science. From that one stepping point, I expanded into other areas. Things made more sense to me and I was able to start applying the thing that I had learned as a result of Carl, to other parts of my life.
As with all good things, this too had to end, and in 1996, Carl Edward Sagan passed away. Having followed his career for most of my life. Been addicted to his speeches, appearances and writings and mesmerized with his personality… it was like losing a close family member. To be honest, I cried harder when he passed away than when my own father died. It was that important to me.
So this is why I include Carl Sagan among my personal heroes.