Dear Friends of Carl,
It’s been four years; way too long. I wanted to reach out to you tonight to share some thoughts about Carl on this sixteenth anniversary of his death. His absence remains more real, more palpable than the presence of others. I am most proud of the fact that for the two decades we were together, we loved each other with a constant appreciation of our great good fortune to have found each other in the immensity of space and time.
A week or so ago I found myself visiting Wikipedia. As so many times before, a banner appeared across the top requesting a contribution. This time my conscience was sufficiently aroused to actually do something. I made a donation and immediately received an automatic response from a Sue Gardner of the Wikimedia Foundation. It was a gracious form letter thank you, but something in the fourth paragraph jumped out at me:
“You should know: your donation isn't just covering your own costs. The average donor is paying for his or her own use of Wikipedia, plus the costs of hundreds of other people. Your donation keeps Wikipedia available for an ambitious kid in Bangalore who's teaching herself computer programming. A middle-aged homemaker in Vienna who's just been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. A novelist researching 1850s Britain. A 10-year-old in San Salvador who's just discovered Carl Sagan.”
How deeply Carl would’ve cared about that kid… How much he would’ve wanted to be a means for him or her to discover the liberating power of the scientific perspective…How he would have appreciated our ever-increasing capacity to connect with one another planet-wide… Just think of it, he would’ve said: The information equivalent of a million ancient libraries of Alexandria is now instantly accessible to a significant fraction of humanity. We are in the process of becoming a completely intercommunicating organism, just as Carl thought we would.
If you are reading these words you are already keenly aware of the myriad ways we are failing as a species. I just wanted to convey the optimism I learned from my time with Carl. It taught me that wonder never has to come at the cost of rigorous skepticism, nor vice versa. We can live and love completely with our eyes wide open. We can embrace our true circumstances in the cosmos as science continues to reveal it, without flinching or turning away.
Please accept my apologies for neglecting the portal for all these years. I have been working with Brannon Braga, Mitchell Cannold, Jason Clark, Seth MacFarlane, Steve Soter and Neil deGrasse Tyson (among many other extraordinary people) on the new 13 part COSMOS series to debut in 2014.
We dream that it will continue the legacy that Carl began. We want to awaken new generations to science as a candle in the darkness, illuminating a pathway to a future that is hopeful and even thrilling.
In the coming year, as we move closer to the completion of this new COSMOS, I hope to be a better correspondent.
And I thank you for remembering Carl and keeping his brilliant flame alive in your hearts and minds.