The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. From it we have learned most of what we know. Recently, we have waded a little out to sea, enough to dampen our toes or, at most, wet our ankles. The water seems inviting. The ocean calls. Some part of our being knows this is from where we came. We long to return. These aspirations are not, I think, irreverent, although they may trouble whatever gods may be.
-Carl Sagan, Cosmos
Imagination is my single most valued personal trait. Without it, the world would seem a much bleaker place through my eyes. Imagination is the precursor to curiosity, exploration, and discovery so it seems natural that I have always had a predilection for these things. For several years of our youth my older brother, Michael, had a healthy obsession with NASA and astronomy. He was my first guide to this wider world beyond our own planet and, like any small child with a budding obsession with sci-fi and fantasy, the immensity of that unknown frontier exploded in my mind like a tiny big bang all it’s own. It is the most precious gift my big brother ever gave me and despite our differences, I’ll love him forever for it.
It’s important to note that Mikey had another passion: baseball. He was my first childhood hero and like any dutiful if unwanted sidekick, his interests were my interest. My first memory of this phase in our relationship happened in 1991. Mikey was a die-hard Atlanta Braves fan and we were caught up in the fervor of the epic “Worst to First” season where the Braves, led by David Justice, Terry Pendleton, and Steve Avery, led the team to their first division victory since 1982. I remember vividly staying up late with Mikey to watch as the Braves barely edged out the Pittsburg Pirates to earn their shot at the World Series. Of course, it wasn’t meant to be and baseball taught us both that Cinderella stories, don’t always end with the underdog on top. The Braves lost to the Minnesota Twins in game 7 of the series, and we wept the bitter tears of disappointed childhood sports fans.
As we got older, Mikey’s passion for baseball and other sports overshadowed his love of space exploration. This divergence in our personalities is something I did my best to ignore, and I abandoned my interest in space as well, though with some reluctance. As much as I enjoyed baseball with my brother, it didn’t satisfy my curiosity and imagination. As we got older and I began to exert more of my own personality, we drifted apart in interests. I devoted more of my time to things that fed my imagination like comic books, video games, and fantasy novels. Regretfully, however, I never got back to space. Partly because I didn’t have someone in my life to nurture that passion, but if I’m being honest mostly because I was lazy and comic books, video games, and fantasy novels are just easier to consume. I’ve decided that needs to change. I want to be equipped to share all of my interests with my daughter. I want to instill in her imagination and those wonderful byproducts of curiosity, exploration, and discovery. I’ve decided that learning about space is the best way to start her down that path.
Carl Sagan has been on my list of, “Authors I really should read, and I probably will get to it as soon as I finish the latest Jim Butcher novel.” This week I finally started my journey, and I began with Cosmos, arguably Sagan’s most popular work. Eloquently written and easy to digest, I’m sad that someone wasn’t around to put this book in my hand when I was much younger. The wonderful thing about space and the Universe is that they were always there, waiting for us to find them again. It’s refreshing–as though my feet have found the road again after stumbling through the brambles for so long. I can’t wait to walk this road with Ruu someday.