Sunday, 9 March 2014

'Who speaks for Earth?'

When I first heard that 'Cosmos' was being given a new avatar on television and Neil deGrasseTyson was going to step into Carl Sagan's formidable shoes, I was very excited. A worthy successor to bring the story of the universe and mankind to a new generation of children (and existing generations of faithful followers!). While I did not get the chance to watch Sagan take us through the magic of space, his book was a great influence in my formative years. The wonderment has stayed over the years and I still carry my worn copy with me. "The pale blue dot" speech still moves me. To have champions of science who can reach the living room of a home in the middle of nowhere is a thing to be truly grateful for.

I have a simple love for Physics. It is nothing fancy, there is no elaborateness to my fascination. I cannot rattle off equations in my sleep or comprehend discussions on quantum theory. I make no bones about my amateur understanding of the subject. But it is a love and fascination that has endured since my childhood, when I was gifted a 10x telescope, through which I would gaze at the sky while lying on my back on the roof of my house. When I was 15, I wanted to study Astrophysics and work in a space agency. I had a poster of Neil Armstrong taped over my study table. I cried when 'Columbia' shattered upon its re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. Slowly, I developed a fascination for extraterrestrial life and what its existence would mean for humanity and Earth as a whole. All these things give me a bunch of memories from my childhood and adolescence.

I did not end up studying the skies. While I like to think that my engineering degree offers me a ray of hope to establish a 'space connection', reality tells me it will be harder than I would like to imagine. So, I still seek happiness in books that make me feel the same way that a child looking at stars and seeing patterns for the first time does. The magic of science and the impact that it has on a young mind cannot be explained. Once you are smitten by this enchantress, your life will never be the same. The sight of a shooting star will bring tears in your eyes- even if you are an 80 year old with worldly wisdom under your belt. The mesmerizing colors of the Aurora will stun you into silence and involuntary contemplation. The photograph of the Earth sitting in a sunbeam like a mote of dust will dissolve grandiose illusions of no consequence. While this feeling makes you feel weightless for a while, you will be brought back to reality and you will snap out of that beautiful experience. But, you will also know that this experience will keep coming back to you for life and remind you of things that most of us take for granted- gratitude, compassion, love, and most importantly, the feeling of childlike wonder.

I cannot wait for Tyson to make me feel like a child again.