September 29, 2009

For Dad -- "A Glorius Dawn" (Cosmos tribute)

This video has been making the blog rounds I see and I am dutifully perpetuating it -- though I first heard about it on NPR.

Long ago, (in a far away land) my dad, a very young and intellectually curious kind of guy, introduced a very young me to the poetic wisdom of Carl Sagan.

Carl Sagan then introduced me to the wonders of the realm of space and time that expands out as far as the mind is capable, and then some. It is with profound fondness that I recall watching Cosmos with Dad in the living room of our home in a somewhat still fledgling Trussville, Alabama. Our house was new, part of a neighborhood of only a handful of houses, flanked by woods on nearly all sides. So on cool spring nights, Dad and I could be found stretched out on the back deck atop the aluminum chaise-lounge chairs with the woven vinyl piping stuff, enjoying the quiet, unfettered view of the night theater. It was the first time I recall that heady feeling of my mind "stretching" and it was because of Carl Sagan and these nights of sky watching that I became addicted to curiosity itself.

I distinctly remember these Saganisms like "I believe our future depends on the how well we understand this cosmos, in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky."

How well I remember that first time I pondered the "simplest thought like the concept of the number one..." (and of course, that moment when I realized that not everyone's number one was like mine) and taking that singular one and turning into a googol. I was struck with both wonder and horror when I realized that "World" could in theory, be little more than what fits on that speck of dust floating in the morning sky. Because after all, the brain has its own language, testing the structure and consistency of the world, because the brain does more than just recollect, it generates abstractions... and in my astonishingly young mind, I suddenly found myself my whole world just an abstraction???

There are as many universes as there are grains of sand on all the beaches? That's very heady stuff for a five year old (was I really only five?). And I'd lie if I said all this deep thinkin' didn't produce some fairly frightening nightmares. Recurrent ones, actually. Recurrent dreams of lying in my bed in a room with no roof, vulnerable to the unfathomable darkness and infinity of the universe. To be fair, there was also that pesky one about the volcano in the backyard forcing me to lock all my stuffed animals in the bathroom before speeding away in my aunt's hideous purple Ford Galaxie. Interesting. Was it really a Galaxie?

Anyway, there ya go. It's no wonder I have a fondness for dear Carl. He was one of my first teachers, I guess you could say. And so it follows that I always put Dad and Carl Sagan together in my mind. So, I thought of you, Dad, when I saw this.

And since that show first sparked my curiosity "billions and billions" of tv shows ago, I have learned, and am learning still, that there are indeed as many worlds as grains of sand -- within our own world, each within another world, within that one, and so on. And it reminds me that, as the late great Wonderer said:

"A still more glorius dawn awaits, not a sunrise, but a galaxy rise. A morning filled with 400 billion suns. The rising of the milky way..."

Yeah so I've been very girly about all this and cried through it almost every time I've watched it. I think it's because it takes me back to a time when I was that child filled with wide-eyed wonder, with the whole world spread out before me, full of endless possibilities. I thank my dad for having the foresight to make sure we watched this show, and for taking to time to talk to me about it afterward. Life has finally brought me back to that place of wide-eyed wonder, and I know without question that the world really is full of endless possibilities.

(and it has just occurred to me -- I may have figured out the reason why I totally dig guys who wear turtlenecks and blazers! )