Usually, I wait until an entire season of a television series is done before I write up one of these “You Should be Watching…” posts, but I am so excited for this long-delayed new season of Cosmos that I just can’t help myself. Cosmos: Possible Worlds, even after only two episodes, is a celebration of discovery and imagination that it is already a must-see for truth-seekers and the curious.
Host Neil deGrasse Tyson returns to the ship of the imagination, journeying from the infinite to the infinitesimal, examining everything from colliding black holes to the beginnings of human civilization to the role of insects in agriculture, and our first most probable attempt to reach another star system – mostly likely in our lifetimes. In the hands of any other people, this series would seem to be an attention deficit mess, jumping from topic to topic with no rhyme or reason, but Cosmos: Possible Worlds gives the reason the most palpable and graspable form though live action, special effects, and stylized animation of historical events. It is all connected just as we are.
This scattershot and yet controlled approach to a multitude of topics gives Cosmic: Possible Worlds and its previous season the freedom to explore a wide variety of areas on the planet, off the planet, and within the planet. The result is a television series that is as beautiful as it is wonderous, as ominous as it is hopeful, and as entertaining as it is educational.
This series is special to me. When I was a kid, I didn’t have a very warm relationship with my paternal grandparents and one Christmas, in what I am certain was a last minute and mostly thoughtless gift, I was given a paperback copy of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.
I was also in third grade.
But, I found this book fascinating.
Over the next few years, I read it cover to cover and started over again. I didn’t understand a lot of it at first, but upon subsequent readings, I began to grasp the concepts of the Big Bang, gravity, time, and our place in the universe a little more and a little more. I did a 4th grade book report on it. I will never forget the blank stares and quizzical looks of my classmates as I explained how lifeforms in the atmosphere of a gas giant might evolve.
Between Cosmos and Star Trek, my imagination and curiosity blossomed even as the binding on that oversized paperback book began to fall apart and pages became lost one by one until one horrible day, the book disappeared from my room forever, put into the trash by my mom who assumed it was worthless.
It wasn’t her fault. After all, the book was worthless by that point… a tattered remain of dog-eared pages and a ripped cover that was held together by scotch tape and hope. Worthless to anyone but me.
I often wonder if my paternal grandparents ever realized how important that book that they gave me as an afterthought was to me… how it shaped me.
I’m still curious.
I still use my imagination.
I still watch Star Trek.
And, thanks to Half Price Books, a pristine hardcover copy of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos sits on my bookshelf and, more carefully this time around, I still leaf through it and read it for what seems like the hundredth time.
It’s signed. Not by Carl Sagan, but by someone who gave it to their father in 1984. I like to tell everyone else that it’s signed, though, just to impress them. I can leave out the specific details.
I’m sure that I will probably sound incredibly self-important to say this, but when I listen to Neil deGrasse Tyson speak of Cosmos and Carl Sagan, I feel a kinship with the guy. He and I have a common affection and I feel incredible envy that he was able to meet Carl Sagan as I did not get the chance to. I feel like I have a personal connection to the material as Tyson does and, I’m sure, that the content is just as if not more important to him as it is to me.
Could it be that I am just too personally connected? Most likely, but I still give this series a high recommendation to all… to the curious, the learners, and the truth-seekers. It’s not always optimistic, but the themes of hope always shine through even in the face of the ominous things that we have brought upon ourselves. Cosmos: Possible Worlds shows us what we can be… our future is a possible world.
We owe ourselves to make it the best possible world we can.