Life is not fair.
This is a lesson that is driven home to me again and again and again. Which means, obviously, that the schoolteacher that is the universe is insistent this time around I must learn. It’s sort of like having to stay in Jail in Monopoly until you roll doubles, and all I keep rolling are threes and nines.
My own particular thoughts of unfairness today reside around the personage of one Carl Sagan, physicist, author and philosopher.
D.G., whyfore would you be upset with Carl Sagan? The man was brilliant! He was a great teacher! And he’s dead – he can’t even defend himself!
All true. My contemplation of unfairness regarding Sagan is two-fold:
– No one person should be that good at that many things. Yet Sagan was. The ultimate example of “ruining the bell curve” for the rest of us.
– He passed away too soon… and as such, we were deprived of how many more lessons he could have imparted to us.
Hey, I didn’t say my contemplation was rational. Unfairness is never rational. It is, by nature, capricious, seemingly touching down randomly at times to deliver in anger blow after blow to one’s psyche or personage. Some people get more fortune than others, others more misfortune, and at times, none of their actions or choices will play a hand in what happens. Fate. Unfair.
Yet I appreciate Carl Sagan for what he really was. Yes, he was an astronomer, an astrophysicist, an author and a lecturer, a TV personality and, for many people in my generation, the public face of science. But he was, above all, a master storyteller. It didn’t matter that the stories he told were fiction or fact. He had a way of weaving tales that could combine the work of ancients and the speculation of moderns into tapestries of wonder. And his tales always ended not with a declaration that this was the sum of all knowledge, but rather the launching point for you, as a listener, to go and discover your own answers.
Yesterday, Phil Plait of Slate Magazine posted an article about Sagan in the Bad Astronomy blog he writes there. In it, he brought up an essay written by Sagan soon after he saw the picture taken by the Voyager 1 space probe of Earth – a single blue pixel in a seas of black. Plait calls it “one of the finest pieces of writing in the English language.” I cannot agree more, and for three decades now it has been inspiring other writers and artists – including a guy who now writes novels and blogs for a living.
Adam Winnik, a illustration student at Sheridan College, used Sagan’s own words as the basis for his final thesis project. It is an amazing piece – and hearing Carl’s own voice makes it all the more powerful.
Yes, he was taken from us early by cancer. Yes, society seems these days to be filled with more and more people who give science as much credence as sorcery. And yes, despite warning after warning, we seem to be bent, in the end, on destroying our Pale Blue Dot.
It’s unfair. But then again, what’s isn’t?