Truthfully, it’s probably a bad idea to start reading a Carl Sagan book on the bus on a Wednesday morning. You will want nothing more than to find the nearest cozy nook where you can devour the book and sink into a kind of imaginative reverie, thinking about the discovery of new worlds, the Big Bang, and the edge of the universe.
I just started reading Pale Blue Dot, and coincidentally, Paul and I are heading to Austin this weekend for some fun and friends in that lively city. I’m excited to hit the road for some new adventures, and this passage from Pale Blue Dot reminded me of that sense of happy anticipation before a trip.
For all its material advantages, the sedentary life has left us edgy, unfulfilled. Even after 400 generations in villages and cities, we haven’t forgotten. The open road still softly calls, like a nearly forgotten song of childhood. We invest far-off places with a certain romance. This appeal, I suspect, has been meticulously crafted by natural selection as an essential element in our survival. Long summers, mild winters, rich harvests, plentiful game—none of them lasts forever. It is beyond our powers to predict the future. Catastrophic events have a way of sneaking up on us, of catching us unaware. Your own life, or your band’s, or even your species’ might be owed to a restless few—drawn, by a craving they can hardly articulate or understand, to undiscovered lands and new worlds.
Herman Melville, in Moby Dick, spoke for wanderers in all epochs and meridians: “I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas…”