Many people don’t know who Carl Sagan was, but they’re probably familiar with a well known quote of his.
“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.”
[Cosmos, Part 11: The Persistence of Memory (1980)]”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos
Well, to be fair, I think people are only familiar with the end of that quote. “A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.” But I think the rest of it is pretty darn cool!
For those of you who don’t know, Carl Sagan was a very famous scientist, primarily in the field of astronomy. He also wrote quite a few books on the cosmos, and a little known book called “Contact.” Yeah. Remember the movie? It came from him. *Mind blown* Right?
Anywho, this quote, to me, sums up the reason that people love to read so much. And the reason people take care of (or should take care of) their books.
Reading has always been a mind-altering experience for me. Yes. You heard it right. Reading is my drug of choice. And in all honesty, I’ve probably been on trippy experiences as a reader that might equate to hallucinogenics. (No, I’ve never touched that stuff). I’m sure you can think of a few trippy books you’ve read that left you feeling a little ‘out of body.’
This quote also embodies the fact that, once a book is published, the author no longer has ANY way to control how people perceive it. We all take books and make what we will of them. I don’t think I feel the same way about “1984” as other people, and you know what? That’s okay!
Did J.K. Rowling ever think people would make OTPs between Hermione and Draco? Umm… Doubt it!
“Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you.” And whenever we read a book, we use our own life experiences to make what we will of the genius of the author’s gift. Thank you, Carl Sagan, for reminding us how important books are.
So… are books proof humans do magic? I vote, heck yeah! What do you think?
13 thoughts on “The Wisdom of Carl Sagan”
I love this quote. And of course I believe that story telling is perhaps one the greatest achievements of mankind. I shudder to think of how different my life would have turned out had I not fell in love with books at young age.
I concur. I can’t imagine my young life without books. I probably would have been an angsty, depressed youth more antisocial than I was. Books kept me sane for a few years, there.
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Cool post. Love his quote. I remember Carl Sagan well. He also said, “We are all made of star stuff.” Brilliant guy.
Thanks! I think he was one of the more underrated scientists of the 20th century. And Contact was brilliant!
I love how you put this “Reading has always been a mind-altering experience for me. Yes. You heard it right. Reading is my drug of choice.”… so very few people get this!!
Great post….and by the way, i love Carl Sagan. I have all his books. 🙂
YEEESSS!!!! I’m so glad you understand! Who needs drugs when we have books? Right? Right!
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I meant to comment on this earlier, but I forgot. So I think the books and magic thing is a good point. But I also like the argument about books being the path toward immorality. Which I’m sure you’ve seen a million times. But it’s kinda true.
I have heard that. About immortality, of course. 😉 To me it’s like living a thousand lives.
For the reader. Or like never dying for the writer.
Ah yes! Absolutely.
I love this so much and I totally agree. Words are powerful, books are powerful and ate definitely works of magic. This quote sums up my love for books and reading so well! xoxo
I’m so glad you like it! I’m a huge fan, myself. He certainly had excellent insight into the wonders of creativity and language.
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