As a young man in Montana, I used to drive with my then-girlfriend out of the small city in which we lived to a small pond. Away from the light-pollution of civilization, we would sit with a blanket on the warm hood of my car and simply gaze up at the night sky. She, a devout Catholic, and I, a stern atheist, could come together in speechless awe as the light from countless billions of stars fell upon us.
It was a wonderful time: this combination of youth, love, wonder, and possibility. And it spurred in me a renewed interest in figuring things out in life. At the time I was a essentially “college dropout” – having left business school to work a 9 to 5 job until some better idea came along. And that idea, when it did finally arrive, was to return to school. To find something I could pursue with a passion. To understand the world beyond my youth, my city, my mountains and Montana’s big skies.
“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”
― Carl Sagan
Astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson was asked in an interview with TIME magazine, “What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the Universe?” This is his answer.
Many people feel small,
because they are small,
and the universe is big.
But I feel big,
because my atoms came from those stars.
There is a level of connectivity.
That’s really what you want in life.
You want to feel connected.
You want to feel relevant.
You want to feel like you are a participant
in the goings on of activities and events around you.
That’s precisely what we are,
just by being alive.
“How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?” Instead they say, “No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.” A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.”
― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space