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Carl Sagan – Words About Books

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I came across this elogy to books, libraries and the written word by sheer chance, but if you have a little over 8 minutes to spare, click here to view the full transcript, of what to me, is a fascinating lecture.

This small, yet meaningful excerpt, is presented by the late Carl Sagan, American scientist and popular science writer and is taken from his award-winning 1980s television series “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage”.

I had thought to share the ‘Youtube’ link with you direct from this page, however, some of the ads that ‘Google’ are showing in a small banner at the bottom of the screen, are not always relevant, I have no control over them or their removal and I really don’t want the distraction of ads rolling across my post, so it’s best if you go take a look for yourself.

Click here to view

I would like to share just a couple of sentences from the clip, that I decided were the most thought provoking for me, see if you agree…..

“Books permit us to voyage through time, to tap the wisdom of our ancestors. The library connects us with the insights and knowledge, painfully extracted from nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, with the best teachers, drawn from the entire planet and from all of our history, to instruct us without tiring, and to inspire us to make our own contribution to the collective knowledge of the human species. Public libraries depend on voluntary contributions. I think the health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture and our concern for the future can all be tested by how well we support our libraries.”

“Books are like seeds, they can lie dormant for centuries, but may also produce flowers in the most unpromising soil.”

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree, with flexible parts called leaves, on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you are inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time, a book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

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I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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  • I’ll check it out over my break this morning, Yvonne. From your quotes it sounds exactly my sort of thing and also something I think my library reading group would appreciate. Thank you.

    • Hi Annie,

      I have to admit that I only came across this clip by chance and had never heard of Carl Sagan before, but I was instantly drawn to his passion and delivery style, with his words capturing my imagination to the full.

      I can’t imagine what legacy mankind will leave, to mark our existence on this earth, in the years to come.

      Will such libraries full of the archived material we have amassed, still exist, or will they be demolished as outdated relics?

      Will our modern times be recorded as the written word, or will it all exist only as data, floating somewhere in the ether?

  • I’ll check the whole thing out after lunch but what powerful words. I grieve for the libraries that have apparently been lost over millenia… Egyptian, Moorish apparently and probably many more.

    Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you.


    • Hi Cath,

      I thought the whole piece was full of some very profound and wonderful words. All those lost libraries, full of the thoughts of wise and learned scholars….

      When Carl actually paced out the amount of books that it would probably be possible to read in a lifetime, in relation to the size and contents of the entire library, I did wonder at how futile it all seems. We can read and digest so little of all the wisdom that exists and which is being extended all the time, that we are quite insignificant in the scheme of things.

    • Hi Leigh,

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment, it is much appreciated.

      Given that the film came from a show that was aired back in the 1980s, I think that the quotes and words are very profound and far-sighted, given the state we find our library service and independent bookstores in today.

      The thought of books slowly disappearing from society, is a frightening and sad thought for me.

  • I adored Carl Sagan when he did the Cosmos series and was quite excited now to find some of his quotes about books. What a remarkable man.

    • Hi Trish,

      I have to admit to coming across this clip, completely by accident, but was I glad that I did!

      Carl is so passionate about his subject and with such great foresight, given how long ago this film was made.

      Quality programming with interesting content, as opposed to some of the mindless drivel we are forced to endure these days.

Written by Yvonne