Thank you Carl Sagan, for Neil deGrasse Tyson. Sincerely, Ryan Thom...

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[title cont: LaBee]

              Contemplating ones place in the universe is nothing new. Humans have debated where they came from, and why they’re here, since they have been able to coherently udder words to one another. I would argue that most of us--if not all of us--feel as if we are destined for great things. Whether it be a movie star, pop singer, famous astrophysicists—okay, maybe not all of us dream of the last one--whatever your dream may be, we all have one!                  

               Sadly though, we do not all reach our dreams. Money, sickness, life in general, something seems to always get into the way of our 'dreams' or our 'destiny'. Does that mean that the ones that make it to greatness were always destined to do so? Or were they pushed in that direction by some other chain of events that were so random they could never even imagine they would get where they end up? I would argue that it is the latter.

               Tonight, I watched in widen eyed and slacked jawed wonder, while 'Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey--hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson—graced my television screen. Its a sequel to a program that premiered over three decades ago but was, and has remained, one of the greatest science programs to ever grace television broadcast. As I watched, I held my daughter in my lap, and I couldn’t help but weep a little as the program—graceful to the very end—came to a close for the week. At the tail end of the show the, Astrophysicist and host, Neil deGrasse Tyson shared a personal story about a kid from the Bronx who had a dream of becoming a scientist. He pulled out an aging journal, Cars Sagan’s—famous astrophysicist and science communicator—and Tyson began to describe how that kid from the Bronx was able to meet his hero, Carl Sagan.              

             Tyson reminisced about his time with Sagan: 'Who was I at that time? Just a 17 year old kid from the Bronx...At the end of the day, he drove me back to the bus station. The snow was falling harder. He wrote his phone number, his home phone number, on a scrap of paper. And he said, "If the bus can't get through, call me. Spend the night at my home, with my family.” I already knew I wanted to become a scientist, but that afternoon I learned from Carl the kind of person I wanted to become.'

              Look at the title of this page. It seems a bit arrogant, and I know that. But the way you probably read it, isn’t the way in which I intended it to be read. I am not comparing myself to Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson—only a crazy person would do such a thing. The reason I wrote this article, and named it the way I did, was to say thank you to the Cosmos, to Carl Sagan, and to Neil deGrasse Tyson. Because, in July 2011—three days after my first child was born—I, Ryan Thomas LaBee, a no body, had the privilege of interviewing one of the greatest minds of our time. Yes, you guessed it. Neil degrasse Tyson.              

              I was a new dad, a new embracer of science, and a new podcaster, and one of the biggest names in science took the time out of his busy schedule to talk to me. I was nervous and completely unprepared—and if you go back and listen to the podcasts--which there is only one episode of--it completely reads, but this did not stop Mr. Tyson from laying some science on me:              

              Neil: I hear you’re a brand new dad?

              Me: “Yea.”

              Neil: “Like, brand spanking new?”

              Me: “Brand spanking new!”

              Neil: “I have some advice for you...if I may?”

              Me: “Absolutely!”

             Neil: “Its advice no one else will tell you. You’re gonna be taking pictures at every moment, amassing thousands of photos. Your motivation to take pictures, will likely be driven by your interest in what new things your infant--into toddler hood, into childhood—has accomplished. First steps, first words, first meal with a utensil. The effort will be to chronological that, and that will be what drives you. However, what you should not lose sight of—and 100% of everyone does—is that the picture you take, is the youngest your child will ever hence forth be, while you’re viewing it as the oldest your child ever was. However, if you view it as the youngest your child will ever hence forth be, then you’ll embrace the moment for how young it is and not for how old it is. Its a much deeper emotion to see your child as young than to see your child as old. This is what I can share with you. “

             So as I watched the television—with my daughter Meadow on my lap—these words echoed through my head. I could not help but think about how limited our time on this planet is and how fast it goes by. I have never dreamt of being a scientist, but I do have dreams and aspirations—as we all do—and that is why Neil's story resonates with me so strongly. Thank you Neil. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day—something you probably have no memory of, but has had a huge impact on my life. Thank you for aiding me on realizing the beauty that is all around us and is continuously escaping us. Thank you for showing me, 'the kind of person I want to become.' and thank you to Carl Sagan for inspiring Neil, to continue inspiring the rest of us.              

              I don’t know if we are all destined for some greater purpose or if its all just random. Sadly I tend towards the latter, but this doesn’t have to be a negative thing. If it is all random, then our only destiny is what we decide for ourselves. I believe Neil became the man he is today because he found a hero in a man that was worth idolizing. A man that was everything we hope for in a person. Neil was that to me. I may not be anything right now—and I promise you I will never be an astrophysicist—but I promise that I will spend every single day of my life trying to be the kind of person that Carl was, and Neil is. And hopefully, in my own way, I can inspire others along the way.

Created: Mar 10, 2014

Tags: science, essay, cosmos, non-fiction, free-verse, space, theme

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