Some think a famous sports figure with a contract with a shoe company is a hero. For others its a parent or someone who touched their life personally in a profound way.
For me it's someone who holds a beacon for us all. My heroes are Carl Sagan, Joseph Campbell and James Burke.
Carl Sagan, the astrochemist is probably most well-known as the creator of the landmark television documentary about the universe we live in, 'Cosmos'.
One of his best books was 'The Demon Haunted World', a treatise on the
power of Science to act as a shining light in the current shadowed
climate of superstition, religious zealotry and disdain for intellect.
Instead of embracing the unknown, people embrace unknowing - the
dumbing-down of textbooks by the removal of things well known to any
geneticist or organic chemist so as to cater to the narrow beliefs of a
religious minority is only one of the symptoms. Psychics, astrology
charts and horoscopes are commonly consulted. There's a tendency towards
escapism instead of fixing the thing people are escaping from.
Ignorance of every flavor and shade dressed up as knowledge surrounds us
- and people are embracing this ignorance with open arms. Carl looks at
the explosion of pseudoscience and "junk science" as integral
components of modern culture and exposes them for the subversion of
reason that they are.
Joseph Campbell is the author of "Hero
With a Thousand Faces" and a number of television programs, most notably
'The Power of Myth' with Bill Moyers.
Joseph was a man of real
wisdom who showed through his books and lectures on spirituality and
comparative religion, a person can be both Spiritual and Religious
without burning any bridges, without excluding anybody and, most
importantly, without giving up Reason - we can be both Scientist and
By finding the common threads of spirituality in all
traditions, Joseph helped me realize long ago that there are many paths
to one goal and Belief isn't always about us and them. Aboriginal shaman
or Roman Catholic, Buddhist or Jew, Muslim or Hindu, Shinto or
Zoroastrian, we all tell the same stories and are filled with the same
light. The spark of the infinite is within and it is up to us to fan it
into a bright flame, tempered by wisdom and knowledge, so that we may
illuminate the way in these dark times.
James Burke is known
for his books and television series about the interconnectedness of
historical events. "Connections" and "The Day The Universe Changed" are
probably his most well-known series and certainly my favorites. He shows
how our growth of understanding of the universe around us changes the
way we see the universe and, in effect, changes the universe itself -
for example, the Sun no longer orbits the earth, does it?
James shows how events in history are connected to and influence other,
sometimes seemingly-unrelated, events - everything is linked in an
intricate web of cause and effect. History is not isolated events
happening in a rigid linear timeline but a cross-pollination of events
large and insignificant, near and far, obvious and hidden happening in a
One of my favorite trails of cause and effect
shows how Napoleon's invasion of Egypt was very important to the
development of the modern computer:
1 - Napoleons troops, while in Egypt, buy up a lot of intricately woven shawls.
2 - When they get home, this starts a fashion craze for the complex fabrics.
3 - Looms are designed in Europe to copy these designs controlled with paper cards with holes punched in them.
4 - The American engineer Herman Hollerith borrows this the idea to
automate the mechanical retrieval of census data with punched paper
5 - Later, these cards are used to get data in and out of ENIAC, the first electronic computer.
I think Carl, Joseph and James slip right under most peoples' radar
but, to me, they're examples for all of us, holding candles in the midst
of the vast spiritual and mental darkness of pervasive ignorance, fear
and superstition that I see so much of these days.
- ► 2015 (16)
- ► 2014 (16)
- ▼ November (6)
- ► 2012 (14)
- ► 2010 (20)
- ► 2009 (22)