How I found spirituality in pop science

Every Sunday, I watch the reboot of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on Netflix. Cosmos is an informative tv show produced by Seth McFarlane that gives a bird’s eye explanation for astronomical phenomena. In a way, it has taken the role that church once stood for me: Neil deGrasse Tyson is the priest, waxing poetic about the wonders of the universe; each episode is scripted, holy text that documents our collective past; the coffee and croissants my girlfriend and I enjoy while we watch is the sense of community. This informative, non-fiction program somehow embodies the spirituality I found after I left the church. Its displays of raw curiosity and stunning visuals put me at peace with an unfeeling universe and excited to live a life of meaning.

But isn’t this contradictory? How can one derive meaning from something that inherently has none?

To understand this thinking, I now introduce Cosmos creator, Carl Sagan. Sagan was an astronomer known for popularizing science and explaining the cosmos with an infectious wonderment. I first learned of Sagan when one of his quotes captioned this amazing photo of Saturn from JPL (you really should click that link). His words have become useful in the age of social media, repeatedly capturing our dumbfounded responses to the scale of the Universe as our probes venture further into space. The rebooted Cosmos mini-series successfully recreates his passion, and can be summarized by my five favorite quotes:

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Be active. The world is filled with infinite mysteries we will never solve and yet we remain innately curious. The solutions for our most complicated problems are within reach.

Be humble. Our concerns and obsessions are insignificant. We shouldn’t feel obligated to bind ourselves to traditions nor should we feel a need to win an imaginary game that has no rewards.

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Love each other. We each are a miraculous result of random fate, and are alone in the world together. Value each other since we are all we have.

Be grateful. We are more than a people; we are dependent on the animate and inanimate environment we live in. This is our home.

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Be curious. We have the gift to think about the phenomena around us, and our curiosity will only bring us closer to being at peace with the world and ourselves.