Category Archives: Motivation

5 Quotes that make Carl Sagan Unforgettable

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If you haven’t heard of Carl Sagan then you are missing out. Not only was the renowned astrophysicist a pioneering scientist, but a leader in the field of public science communication. And personally, one of the greatest people to have ever lived.

Without him, it is unlikely that many of us would know much about the universe beyond basic education. And without his television show Cosmosa generation of scientists may have never come to be.  But Carl’s greatest contribution to humanity was his unending patience, empathy and personal charge toward empowering people with knowledge.

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On his ‘ship of the imagination’, Sagan traversed the stars. Image courtesy of Flickr

Even now, his profound insights into human life ring true in arenas ranging from politics to social reform. So let’s count down our top list of his most enduring quotes, perhaps you will find something that you love.

1. On understanding and knowledge.

People are not stupid. They believe things for reasons. The last way for skeptics to get the attention of bright, curious, intelligent people is to belittle or condescend or to show arrogance toward their beliefs.

Throughout his career, Carl was persistent in his pursuit of public empowerment. By treating us all as friends, capable of the greatest feats, he established a paradigm of education by right.

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Carl Sagan’s Universe was one we could all explore, and he tried to be the greatest guide. Image courtesy of Flickr.

But with some controversy, he took what was privy only to a select few in academia and made it not just palatable, but wondrous to the rest of us. For Carl, you were not just deserving of the universe but enriched for understanding it.

And as an avowed skeptic of common wisdom and conspiracy, he approached each subject with evidence, understanding, and compassion. Simply, he forgave people human mistakes, where others would simply dismiss them.

We should do the same.

2. On the transience of human life and the immortality of words.

One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.

During one episode of his poetic homage to humanity, Cosmos, Sagan visited the ancient library of Alexandria. It was here, for a short while, that the world’s greatest minds came together in a shared mission of understanding.

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Books are nothing less than a voyage of discovery, be they history. science or fiction. Our words stay behind when we leave. Image courtesy of Flickr.

And although much of Alexandria’s history was lost, small amounts remain in collected writings. An enduring legacy of another time. But for Carl words were more than just communication between friends and colleagues, but a version of immortality.

Through the written word we learned to overcome death, share the wisdom of our time with those who would come after. The ‘information-organism’ of humanity finds feet in ink over millennia.

3. On the fragility of understanding and the wonder of creation

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

In this short epithet, Sagan reflects on the vast gulf between human knowledge and the nature of the universe. And depending on your interpretation, he is either jocularly revealing a comedy of nature, or providing a deep insight into the linearity of thought.

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All that we are was formed in ancient furnaces. Including apple pie. Image courtesy of Flickr.

To make an apple pie requires the ingredients created from the formation of our universe. All that is once was in the bellies of ancient stars, cast into our universe and eventually mealtimes by cosmic forces and eons of time.

But to understand the world we must first invent a way of understanding, and for that the best we have is science. It is through a skeptic and imaginative mind that we may create our universe.

4. On the humility of human life in an infinite universe (see video.)

In his famous soliloquy, Sagan reduces human accomplishment, greatness, cruelty and misunderstanding to the tiny significance it has in the greater universe.

Within his poetic testament he not only shows us just how small we are, but hints at how pointless our self destruction is.

And at the same time he conveys a message of hope disguised in a eulogy. He warns us that our future is down to us, and that hopefully by realising what we have, as tiny as it is, that we may create a better future.

Earth is our only home.

5. On the saving grace of companionship.

For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.

For all his poetry, lessons and foretelling, Sagan hits on something truly profound. Upon recognising the inescapable truths that are our mortality and ineffectual existence beyond a pale blue dot, he returns to what unites us all.

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In the infinite abyss of a dark universe hides rare moments of light and love. Image courtesy of Flickr.

By embracing love we can overcome any distance. And in that the paucity of meaning is rendered mute, bearable and even empowering, as through love we can find meaning in an ocean of irrelevance. Where science can bring humility, love can bring back purpose.

Throughout his career it appears to me that Sagan’s underlying driving force must have been a deep and powerful love for the universe and his fellow man. To continuously fight for public empowerment, against governments, critics and even himself, Sagan had a heart much greater than even his ‘ship of the imagination’ could explore

But to encapsulate Sagan in five quotes is impossible, so we encourage you to explore his work further.

So which was your favourite? What have we missed and what did you take away? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found yourself touched, please help us reach out  by sharing.

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of Dr Janaway alone and may not represent those of his affiliates. Featured image courtesy of Flickr.

R.I.P Carl.

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Want To Wake Up Energised? Learn Now How Defining And Pursuing Your Vision Can Make All The Difference.

We know it’s hard. The alarm goes off, and you roll out of bed. Dreary eyed, you reach for coffee. It’s normal. But it may not be what you really want. But the worlds heroes are different for one reason. And with that secret, you will look forward to waking up and hitting the day running. What are you waiting for?

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Forget Coffee, There is Something Much Stronger.

The secret is simple. Vision, Imagination and Perseverance.

Define Your Vision

‘I want to affect people like a clap of thunder, to inflame their minds with the breadth of my vision, the strength of my conviction and the power of my expression.’ – Rosa Luxemburg, Theorist and Activist.

The first question you can ask yourself is ‘Who do I want to help?’ or failing that, ‘What do I want to change?’ What can you ‘do’ to make the world a better place? It may not be big, your audience could be just one person. That’s enough. But like Elon Musk, it might be the world itself. No Vision is too small or too large. It’s what you wish to do that improves the world that makes all the difference.

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Helping Others Can Be A Calling.

For example. You may want to make life better for your family, find a higher paying job or try a new career. You may want to solve climate change. As great or small as your Vision is, define it first.  Now own it, breathe it and live it.

Imagine Your Journey

‘The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint, the greats were great because they paint a lot’ – Macklemore, 10,000 Hours, The Heist.

The first steps are always the hardest. But you have to know where you are going so you that you can point your feet. Try it now, imagine what it would be like to achieve your vision. What do you see? What does it feel like? What would every step along the way bring? Live your future right here and right now. Learn what you are willing to do to achieve it. What are you willing to sacrifice?

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Imagine You Are Already There.

And most importantly, who will you be when its all done? Imagination is inspiration.

Persevere and Succeed

‘Accept hardship as a necessary discipline’ – Lailah Gifty Akita, Founder of Smart Youth Volunteers Foundation.

There is no doubt about it, Visions can be hard to achieve. There is no easy road, but that’s okay, each moment you fall is another you rise. There will be setbacks, lots of them. Probably more than leaps forward at times. But no worthwhile journey is ever simple, and its the challenge that makes you. It is the difficulty that sharpens your nerve, builds your resolve and error that shows the way forward.

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Be Wiling To Go Beyond.

Be ready to attack, put in those hours, give it 100% and then some. Don’t wait, create, work, do, research, write, run, whatever it is. Every second spent pushing is one closer to that Vision. That picture in your mind is only a matter of time and effort.

So what are you waiting for?

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of Dr Janaway alone and may not represent those of his affiliates. Images courtesy of DebsErháld Borbáth, kxcd , T K R Roy. and Adrian Valenzuela. Check them out.

 

 

 

Fed Up Of Feeling Sad? Learn The Trick To True Happiness. Stop Waiting, Start Doing.

“Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do with struggling, enduring, and accomplishing.” – George Sheehan

Sadness is not just a human problem. It is a problem shared by animals, and likely present since soon after the dawn of life. What sets us aside from most animals, with notable exceptions, is our ability to question our purpose. Humans, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy, see self actualisation as the pinnacle of aspiration. Disregarding the basics of food, shelter, love and ego, it is making a change to the world that matters to us most.

A Loss Of Purpose

‘Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress.; working hard for something we love is called passion.’ Simon Sinek, Author, Consultant and Motivational Speaker.

In a popular video, Simon Sinek explains that millennials find traditional jobs difficult as they feel that they are not making a change. And whilst this generation is blessed like no other, it is also the most sad. Information is made easy to find, health is at an all time high, and opportunities almost endless. And yet, within this machine of progress, the very cogs are rusting and breaking apart.

But as the world gets smaller, so do we. Instead of being the centre of our community, someone who seems to matter, we are just one of seven billion. We are saturated by news of the successes of others, taught to envy and idolise celebrities, and regard great thinkers with a theological awe. We are set against impossibly high standards, and it can seem fruitless to even try.

For a species that thrives on purpose, and achievement through it, this could not be more troubling.

Achievement Is Not Happiness

Some of the happiest people in the world go home smelling to
high heaven at the end of the day (Morgan Freeman, playing God in Bruce Almighty.)

It is a common myth that achievement buys happiness. When you look at PhD students (as Psychologist Jordan Peterson explains,) they become sad, or even depressed, when they finally hand in their work. When you finish reading a book most often the thrill of the story dies, the elation of conclusion concluded. So why is it that when we work for something, its achievement leaves us hollow?

The answer may be something spiritual, cultural, biological, all or none. Religion teaches us to live as God would like, to aspire to holiness through his attribution. Spirituality promises unity between self and the universe, achievement through the dissolution of the delusion of separateness. Culture dictates that we must have the right job, make money, marry or have children. Biology rewards achievement with chemicals, and does so over and over. Each asks, with  the caveat of some spiritual beliefs, that we attain a malleable goal that can be recorded.

And yet those of religious faith, spiritual leaders, great men and women and even animals at the top of their ecological niche will continue to want and to be sad. So there must be something else. Something you can’t hold, display or record.

Define who you are to find your purpose

You may not associate actor Matthew McConaughey with sage wisdom (a tragedy of media and preconceptions,) but in a 2017 speech to the University of Houston, he explains that the start of self actualisation is the deciding what you are not. He argues passionately that by actively addressing who you aren’t, you are only left with who you are. He said;

“The first step that leads to our identity in life is usually not “I know who I am,” but rather “I know who I am not.” 

Finding identity is instrumental to happiness, as  the true and honest realisation of who you are can open your mind to what you want. What you dream, and the purpose that you have. And by purpose I do not mean achievement, but the process of following that process with all you are and what you have to give. But first we can ask, what can you forget?

What you are is not a job. It is not a document, or a bank account. It is not your Facebook, your diet or your friends. These are just measurements we give ourselves to place value on our existence. But we exist in mind, and indeed purpose, regardless of these things. To live in the knowledge that you are following your purpose, that honest dream, stripped of all accolade, is the true process of self actualisation.

It does not require applause or award, the pleasure is in the doing.

Living with Purpose is the key to happiness.

We know that many creatures can feel sadness, and that achievement of a goal will not always bring happiness. We know that although our opportunities are unparalleled  compared to any other time in history, depression is at its highest level. We know that who you are remains when all labels are removed, and that lesson is a Universal truth. So how can you find happiness by simply living?

The answer is to live true to your purpose. Find joy in the doing, regardless of the result. Reading a book is more pleasurable than finishing it, climbing a mountain more valuable than planting the flag, playing an instrument more challenging that listening back. Happiness is found when the future is forgotten, and the present is found joyful in its encapsulation of activity.

So instead of worrying about being great, remembered, rich or powerful, enjoy living toward your purpose without needing recognition. Whatever that may be.

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of Dr Janaway alone and may not represent those of his affiliates. If you suffer from depression, or suspect that you may, please seek medical advice.  Image courtesy of Aainlm

 

 

 

 

Feeling Despair At The World? Don’t Worry, We Have You Covered.

It’s easy to turn on the news and find nothing but gloom. From warfare to injustice, our minds are continuously saturated by the inane and sad. But its not all bad. Just think about it for the moment. We exist, and regardless of our failures, it is a multitude of unlikely triumphs that have led us here. So take a moment away from the macabre, and join me in a celebration of hope.

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl, Author.

Suspended in a Sunbeam

Astronomer and Science Communicator Carl Sagan once uttered a soliloquy of such grand insight that the whole of our existence can be reduced to a moment in space. In his polemic, he refers to our ‘Pale Blue Dot’, (a musing on a photograph taken by the Voyager 1 Space Probe,) as the epitome of all we have ever been. In just this small snippet, he says;

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. – Carl Sagan (view the rest here.)

Hidden within Sagan’s prose is a simple message. Every evil, every good, is played out on one stage. And like every yin must have its yang, the good is only ever hidden, not lost. And it is quite a wonder, that we live on a miraculous planet cast asunder in a tiny corner of a plain galaxy, in an average cluster, in universe grander than our imaginations, lucky to be in a time and level of entropy so fertile to life.

A Unique Journey

A peace above all earthly dignities, A still and quiet conscience.  – William Shakespeare, Playwright

Eons ago life began. First as a mute congregation of molecules, tuned by chance and selection, dressed by chemistry and choreographed by physics, it evolved into the complex tapestry of life we see today. From the furnaces of long dead stars the very atoms that comprise us tell a story 13 billion years old, and those same atoms allow you to read, comprehend, and share. It is quite an accomplishment.

It has not been an easy road. Mass extinctions, whether by giant rock, disease or climate change, have forged our ecology into today’s nature. Humans are just one branch of an epic tree, and all our mistakes and noble deeds have helped our tender leaves reach for the very stars that formed them. But we are transient beneficiaries, nomadic wanderers of time and space, left to ponder our purpose in it all.

A Bright Future

What you had yesterday is only memories; what you will have tomorrow is your dreams and what you will do today, let it be love.” – Santosh Kalwar

The world of tomorrow is unwritten. Whether it be scorched in Nuclear Fire, or elucidated by the dance of particles beneath Switzerland, the empty pages are ours to write. The ink we use is formed of our judgement, the cursive language our hope and the full stop our dreams. There is little to hold us back, as we have traversed so far. To be sentient, an unlikely biological machine, formed of dead stars in a forgotten corner of the universe, is a blessing.

So, next time you find yourself in despair at the world, remember that you are part of something wonderful, unexpected, and most importantly, unfinished.

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The views above are those of Dr Janaway alone and do not necessarily represent those of his affiliates.  Image courtesy of Pixabay.