Tuesday, May 8, 2012

On the magic of the written word

It's been a while since I watched Carl Sagan's iconic series Cosmos, but I remember the flights of fancy that every episode sent me on. G. who'd watched the series when it was originally broadcast tells me he's been rediscovering it post-exams all these years later.

He emailed me this quote from the episode The Persistence of Memory, a couple minutes ago. And since it makes my heart sing with joy, I'll put it here for safe-keeping. 

"What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic."

I have always admired Carl Sagan, his ability to explain complex concepts in simple words without being reductive, his humanism, his deep respect for all life, his unflagging devotion to the cause of spreading knowledge. He inspired a lot of the scientists of our generation and he's always inspired me, too.

But tonight he's given me more to think about. This feeling of belonging I get, when often I read something that strikes a chord within me, or write something that leads to a conversation with strangers, occasionally turning them into friends. It does feel like magic. I am grateful for it. And for Carl. 

22 comments:

I do, I do. said...

Awesome! Loved this post!

Sakshi said...

Beautiful.. you actually posted on books, something that I too was planning to post on :P
We have quite a telepathy going here ;)

Tangled up in blue... said...

I do, I do. Seriously man, I absolutely loved this quote, too! :)

Sakshi, really? That is so cool! Now I really want to read yours man.

venusplus said...

Thank you for this post. I love Carl Sagan and this post just made my day :)

Tangled up in blue... said...

venusplus, you're welcome! :) It made my day, too, actually. Makes me want to rewatch Cosmos simply so I can hear him say it.

Jester said...

For years science and scientists have been looking for time machines and teleportation devices. I found them when i picked up my first book!

Tangled up in blue... said...

Jester, one of the earliest books I remember reading was 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Definitely a time machine man! :)

Susan Deborah said...

I have not read any of Carl Sagan's works but I should, I guess. I found this post so mellow and tender. It honestly made me gush and conjure up all the books I've read. AT this precise moment, I feel like hugging and kissing all the books I've known and read. Magic, all the way!!!

Thanks K.

Joy always,
Susan

Arumugam said...

Man,I am a Carl Sagan nut too:)
Though I discovered him only after his passing away:/

I think,he has taught me more about humanism and compassion than any organised religion ever has.

And its a yearly ritual for me to watch the movie adaptation of his book,Contact.It has caused me to feel some real profound thoughts.I think it is the best sci-fi movie ever made.

In fact one movie reviewer said "When we can boast of terrestrials like Carl,who needs extra's :-)

We miss you Carl:(

Jester said...

amazingly i was thinking about 20000 leagues under the sea too, when i was writing that!

ganeshputtu said...

And to think that here i was wishing for Holocrons and for current technology to develop faster to keep up with sc-fi....and you have shown me that sometimes even low tech is awesome.....a complete inversion of view...All Hail to the Egyption Papyri - the mother of our books...

Tangled up in blue... said...

Susan, I am actually quite overcome by that sentiment quite often! I have been known to hug my books quite a lot. ;) I love pressing them to my nose and inhaling their smell, too. Be it the old book smell or the fresh new paper smell, I love 'em both! :)

Arumugam, as did I! This is extraordinary! The first time I came into contact (pun thoroughly intended) with his ideas, was through the film, Contact, which I watched on Star Movies as an after-school thing one afternoon. I completely fell in love with Jodie Foster's Ellie Arroway. I imagined I was a teeny bit like her so when I read that Carl Sagan had written the character as a close approximation of his own self, I was very delighted! :) And the end of the film is simply stunning! Also, it is the only film in which I found Matthew McConaughey actually appealing as an actor. :)

And that quote is absolutely spot-on! Carl Sagan is one guy the Earth can actually be really proud of! :)Come to think of it, it is certainly my favourite sci-fi film as well. That one and The Man from Earth. Have you seen that one?

Tangled up in blue... said...

Jester, :) Jules Verne is absolutely fantastic man! He is the grand-daddy of sci-fi! :)

ganeshputtu, Holocrons? Wow! Now there's a bit of sci-fi I haven't run across. Some sci-fi has actually come true, you know. Some more just might. :) But it's all dream it to build it, right? And yes, much respect to the Egyptian papyri indeed! Also, welcome to my blog! :)

Jester said...

true, that about verne! my uncle gave my brother 20000 leagues and although i was too young to really read the unabridged verne then, i soon found myself making the journey to the centre of the earth and the travelling the world in 80 days...and this guy wrote those books more than a 100 years before i was even born!!

puneetsandhu said...

So funny that I read this post right after I finish reading a book that really, really struck a chord with me. (Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth). And the quote is beautiful and so well-put.

mgeek said...

Come 2014, and we will have a remake of Cosmos series with witty and awesome and funny Neil deGrasse Tyson! :)

I do, I do. said...

Disappeared?

Aayushi Mehta said...

I've read this quote before, loved it right then. of course I agree with every word you said!

This is the n th time I've visited your blog to find no new post!

Tangled up in blue... said...

Jester, I know! Jules Verne was incredibly prescient I'll say. He wrote this book called De la Terre a la Lune about man's first moon voyage that came true a century later! Amazing, isn't it? :)

Puneet, Unaccustomed Earth is a beautiful book. Especially the last three stories about Hema and Kaushik. The way their love ends, it's so heartbreaking, even more so because it's so true to life. I think Lahiri is at her best when she writes short stories. I only liked The Namesake in parts.

Tangled up in blue... said...

mgeek, seriously? That is the best news I've heard in a long, long time! I mean, I love Prof. Brian Cox's Wonders series but Neil DeGrasse Tyson is Da Man! :) Love him! He's razor sharp where Cox is kinda mushy. Not that that's a bad thing, but I'm really excited to see how it'll shape up. :)

I do, I do. No, not yet! ;)

Aayushi, I've had no time man! I shall have to find a way to post from my phone now.

Kshipra said...

Oh what a lovely quote!
And oh, the book, a time travelling device, a teleporting device, a 3-d Holographic image generating device....A book, a simple flat book!

Just Me said...

The quote is going in the long encouraging-inspirational mail I've been trying write to my little brother who avoids reading like broccoli.

Thanks :)