I’m slowly starting a new project called This Year on Earth. It’s goal is to make sense of a big, fast world, to create meaning out of the barrage of culture and science and big events that constantly comes at us. My first piece, “9/11, Space, and Love Stories“, and was just published. Here’s an excerpt. You can click through for the rest:
Right now at the very tipping edge of the solar system, 18 billion miles from the sun, a golden record carries two love stories into deep space. It’s nestled inside Voyager 1, a spacecraft that NASA launched 35 years ago this month.
In its grooves is the love story of humanity. The sound of a kiss and of a mother greeting her newborn for the first time. The sounds of wind and rain and thunder, of crickets and birds and dogs, of morse code and the liftoff of a spacecraft. There is music from Bach and Mozart, an ancient Chinese piece called Flowing Streams, and percussion recorded in Senegal. It has no mention of war or disease or broken families. It is a love letter in a bottle hurtling through space at 35,000 miles per hour.
Eleven years ago today in New York this love story was dealt a defining blow. The two towers collapsed like our grand illusion of a world marching together towards peace, prosperity and liberty, our illusion that love is without pain. That day fissures opened up in the soul of humanity and spewed molten fear and anger and violence, an eruption that hasn’t stopped.
The second love story on the golden record sounds like the vibrating wings of a large bug. You can hear it online. It’s the sound of neurons firing, neurons belonging to Annie Druyan, the creative director of the golden record project. Two days before having her brain recorded she had taken a call from Carl Sagan, who was leading the project, and they had told one another for the first time that they loved each other and decided, right there on the phone, to get married.