Carl Sagan on Mindfulness & Gratitude

Carl Sagan, the preeminent scientist behind the landmark PBS Cosmos series that aired in 1980, was interviewed by Charlie Rose a few months before his death in 1996. I watched it on YouTube over the weekend. It was his last TV interview.

Sagan died of complications from myelodysplasia. He was promoting his latest book, The Demon-Haunted World but reflected on many topics, some eerily relevant now in what feels like a post-science era. I encourage folks to watch the full 20-minute interview posted below at the end.

The last seconds of the interview caught my attention especially. Sagan was reporting exactly what I wrote here last week when I announced my cancer diagnosis. I wrote that serious or life-threatening illness can be a gateway to awakening. It can silence the noise in our head and bring us into the present moment with a clarity and appreciation we have seldom experienced. Confronted with his illness and uncertain future, Sagan reported experiencing exactly this.

Although he had been an astute observer by profession his whole life, Sagan now found himself observing life and things with an attention and appreciation he’d never known. Here’s the clip:

As I wrote last week, we don’t have to wait for serious or life-threatening illness to become awake to the present moment, but it does certainly provide a motivation for doing so.

Words of Appreciation for Life

Raphael Block is a poet who lost his wife to cancer in 2002 and now finds himself facing cancer as well. His poetry captures the beauty of the natural world in all its splendor. Block started composing his verses after his wife’s death. He strives to live every day to the fullest and relishes when he can draw inspiration from the outdoors.

It Doesn’t Have to Pass

There’s nothing new or novel in all this, except perhaps that mindfulness, presence and gratitude are getting more attention these days. This a good thing!

The Mary Tyler Moore Show featured an episode in which news anchor Ted Baxter suffers a heart attack and, in his typically-hysterical style, becomes obnoxiously present and grateful. Still, it rubs off on the others who find themselves also present and grateful — and sad when they feel it slipping away again.

But it can last. I’ll have more in future posts. For now, this is a scene where Ted reverted back to “normal” while the others try to stay in the moment and savor a sunset.

The Full Carl Sagan Interview

Title image is a Public Domain photo by NASA.
I believe the short video clips from Charlie Rose and Mary Tyler Moore, used for editorial purpose, qualify as Fair Use.

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