“Life expectancy is probably the single most effective index of quality of life: If you’re dead, you’re probably not having a good time.”
– Carl Sagan
So simple it’s hilarious! That was the late Carl Sagan our advancements in quality of life during the 20th century, from his final book Billions & Billions. He died almost ten years ago and I’m only just discovering him. I have The Demon-Haunted World on my coffee table to read next. He was both a brilliant scientist and writer, and this book was easy to understand, entertaining, and full of ideas to chew on. It was like being in third grade science class (but with heavier material) back when learning was still so much fun. Carl Sagan was only 62. What he left us was amazing, but it’s a real shame there wont be anything more.
I’ve rediscovered my library card this month. Call it maybe a growing frustration with the idiot box, all the stupid celebrity bullshit. The only things I even watch on cable are CNN, the baby shows on Discovery Health, and HGTV (I don’t have a lawn to garden and I can’t even paint the walls in this rental.) I’m thinking about just cancelling the cable all together and going back to the rabbit-ears (for Lost and Grey’s Anatomy!), but that’s a whole different blog entry. Anyway, our newly remodeled library is open again in Royal Oak and that makes me the happiest book nerd alive.
My current fascination is with the science vs. pseudoscience debate. Let’s say (my favorites) Carl Sagan vs. Sylvia Browne. I know, Sylvia Browne, the weird psychic lady from the Montel Show. Now I don’t go for the John Edwards, James Van Praagh business, but I think maybe she has something just a little different up her sleeve. It isn’t even the psychic predictions I’m most interested in – I know there could very well be interviews and such that they do before those shows to make everything seem so accurate – but her ideas about life, God, and the afterlife. What her followers might call prophecy I’ll call interesting philosophy. And they are interesting ideas, definitely worth a library rental and a thought or two.
I don’t feel the need to place myself with either the skeptics or the believers. Not on this issue, and not right now. Why is there always the pressure to choose sides, to place ourselves into categories on every single issue?
Like the abortion debate, for example (which Carl Sagan has a brilliant chapter about in Billions & Billions). Why must we separate ourselves into two distinct sides on everything? Can there never be a sound compromise? Can a girl not call herself both pro-life and pro-choice at the same time? Because I am. I wouldn’t say either side has it entirely right or wrong.
I don’t think we always need to declare our stand on things so quickly. There’s nothing wrong with going to the library and taking in all the available information first. Decide later if you feel you need to, when you’re ready, or maybe even not at all.
And in terms of things more literary, I’m reading Franz Kafka for the first time, the huge Complete Stories (please recommend your favorites if you have any). I’ve been told that I can’t call myself a writer and not have read Kafka, so that’s what I’m doing.
I also have The Toughest Indian in the World by Sherman Alexie. I love his work. He is just brilliant.
So turn off the celebrity bullshit and go read something enlightening.