While skimming through old blog posts, I came across a little gem, excerpted from an interview of Ann Druyan by Charlie Rose. In the last several years I have listened many times to Ms. Druyan speak of her experiences as a scientist and skeptic, and of her romance with the late Carl Sagan. Often she talks quite eloquently about that love; in fact, when Felicia and I were married, we asked a friend to read Ann Druyan's words from a Radiolab interview she gave in 2008 or thereabouts. Here's the excerpt our friend read:
"When my husband died, because he was so famous and known for not being a believer, many people would come up to me — it still sometimes happens — and ask me if Carl changed at the end and converted to a belief in an afterlife. They also frequently ask me if I think I will see him again. Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we knew we would never see each other again. I don’t ever expect to be reunited with Carl.
But, the great thing is that when we were together, for nearly twenty years, we lived with a vivid appreciation of how brief and precious life is. We never trivialized the meaning of death by pretending it was anything other than a final parting. Every single moment that we were alive and we were together was miraculous –not miraculous in the sense of inexplicable or supernatural. We knew we were beneficiaries of chance … That pure chance could be so generous and so kind … That we could find each other, as Carl wrote so beautifully in Cosmos, you know, in the vastness of space and the immensity of time … That we could be together for twenty years.
That is something which sustains me and it’s much more meaningful … The way he treated me and the way I treated him, the way we took care of each other and our family, while he lived. That is so much more important than the idea I will see him someday. I don’t think I’ll ever see Carl again. But I saw him. We saw each other. We found each other in the cosmos, and that was wonderful."
Beautiful, isn't it? The entire episode, if you're so inclined to listen, is quite lovely and inspiring. Ms. Druyan talks about more than just her relationship with Carl Sagan; she also reminisces about the Voyager gold record project, and it's just a treat. And, as Felicia and I both thought, significantly more romantic and inspiring than another Bible verse reading.
But on to that Charlie Rose excerpt, which reveals Mr. Rose, I think, to be a bit less moved by such things:
Charlie Rose: What did you learn from (Carl’s death)?
Ann Druyan: I learned … that … Carl always said: Everything dies. Even the stars die. There is no refuge from change in the universe. And that the test of your ethics, the test of your spiritual beliefs, is how you face these challenges. And if you love fully, and if you live fully, they are bearable.