“…whenever I’m down, you know, I’m thinking, “And still they move, 35,000 miles an hour, leaving our solar system for the great wide open sea of interstellar space.”Ann Druyan, speaking of the Voyager Spacecraft
It started as a podcast, an old podcast from Radiolab. The host, Jad Abumrad, was interviewing Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan’s widow, on how she curated an incredible collection of sounds from human cultures around the world to be placed on a golden record and sent out to space on the Voyager Spacecraft. Do you know about this? It was 1977, and the Voyager Interstellar Message Project was meant to be a missive to the future, to faraway worlds, to any possible extraterrestrial life that might intercept it out in the universe. Although this was an old episode, Jad was sharing it again because he had listened to it with his son, and he said it was oddly comforting. “Comforting?” I wondered.
And then Ann Druyan began talking about the summer of 1977. It was the summer she and Carl Sagan fell in love. It was the summer where she and her project partners sought to record the sounds on this earth that would best represent us, humans, inhabitants of this beautiful earth. On the record were the sounds of the ocean, the wind and thunder, humbpack whales and other animals, a kiss, and the first words of a mother to her newborn baby. They added world music, and greetings from people in fifty-five languages and many other sounds. Druyan was very humble about the task she set out to complete, freely admitting how daunting it was to choose the soundtrack of our world to send out to someone who might hear it a million years from now.
Her words captivated me. And that comfort the host spoke of–I got it. The great wide sea of interstellar space–think of it. The spaceship patiently pushing on beyond the limits of imagination. The endless voyage, the quest, the beings that may someday intercept this golden record (or not); it dwarfs my small cares. Mary Oliver once said, “Something is wrong, I know it, if I don’t keep my attention on eternity.” Yes, that is the heart of it. In my small small quarantine world, in my daily immersion into the artificial world of the internet and other media, I’ve lost my focus. When is the last time I gazed at the stars? Eternity, the universe, Voyager floating right now, 42 years and 13 billion miles later, the golden record waiting to be played. It’s huge, and it is coupled with the audacious hope that jettisoned that craft beyond our galaxy. This is exactly what I need to ponder right now.