Today’s Iconic Literary Man is brought to you by our resident book reviewer Trip Starkey, if for no other reason than science and science fiction aren’t taken seriously enough by the literary community at large, and we’re injecting a little scientific literature into today’s blogosphere:

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe” (Cosmos). The first time reading these words can often be met with a simple “what the hell are you talking about, Carl Sagan?” However, in the context of his scientific grandeur, this quote is the perfect attribution to the scientific and literary brilliance of Dr. Carl Sagan.

One of the twentieth century’s most influential scientists, Carl Sagan’s impact is not limited to the field of science. Sagan became a titan of literature, and revolutionized the way we feeble earth-dwellers gaze at the stars. He authored over ten cosmic-centered books, created a television series, and was even featured in a song with Stephen Hawking. Sagan adopted the true meaning of what it is to be an artist, and painted the most hauntingly beautiful picture of the universe we dwell in across the pages in his books.

The purpose of literature is to transform and change the individual on a mental, emotional, and spiritual level. Carl Sagan took this to heart. In books like Cosmos, The Varieties of Scientific Experience, and Pale Blue Dot, he gives a depiction of man’s attempt to explore the universe, and also attempts to assess our purpose amidst the stars and galaxies.

Some Sagan quotes to mull over:

“I believe it is true that humility is the only just response in a confrontation with the universe, but not a humility that prevents us from seeking the nature of the universe we are admiring.” (The Varieties of Scientific Experience)

“Once we overcome our fear of being tiny, we find ourselves on the threshold of a vast and awesome Universe that utterly dwarfs – in time, in space, and in potential – that tidy anthropocentric proscenium of our ancestors.” (Pale Blue Dot)

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it, we go nowhere.” (Cosmos)

It is his imaginative drive that confronts the depths of space with human understanding. He presses mankind towards an ever-deepening desire to discover not only themselves, but also the universe around them.  He teaches that we are not to be afraid of where we are, but to embrace and explore it. Sagan implores us to thrive in our epochs (a word he made enjoyable to say), and to see ourselves sprawled across the canopies of the deep black.

Sagan revolutionized science by maintaining a childlike imagination of what we are capable of, and combining it with a jaw-dropping intellect and determination to get there. Without Sagan’s writings, many people’s understanding of NASA and Space Exploration, spirituality in light of scientific discoveries, and a deep sense of purpose in the Cosmos would remain in the dark. However, this extraordinary man saw beyond our blockheadedness, remained humble is his achievements and abilities, and opened the Cosmos to the dimmest of minds.  He pushed for a caretaking mindset of our universe, and to put our individual lives in perspective compared to entirety of existence. Sagan pioneered a deeper human understanding, and his influence will be felt among the community of mankind far beyond our generations.

It is with much gratitude that we remember his life, and revel in the words that are written in his books. The discoveries and deep truths that he brought to life are his legacy, and will continue to live on in the hopeful hearts of mankind. Sagan truly was a revolutionary, and without him the world would be a grim, demon-haunted place. We must keep striving, keep digging, and prepare ourselves to “set sail for the stars” (Cosmos).

“It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” – Carl Sagan (Pale Blue Dot)