Neil deGrasse Tyson is a scientist and he just wants us to ask really good questions.
I had the pleasure of hearing the astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium speak at my office the other day and he was nothing short of electric. We were told he only had a half-hour to come and speak (because of his busy schedule) but it was clear if we kept raising our hands, he would keep answering our questions. He is a conduit for the advancement of science; it is, no doubt, his passion.
The beauty of his message is its purity. Tyson admits his accidental fame is nothing more than that, an accident. And it will never distract him from the true work of his existence. He just so happens to be famous for delivering soundbites for media outlets and hosting a popular podcast called StarTalk to celebrate science with A-List celebrities. The value of his work is rooted in the questions he asks of the Universe and the path he sets out to discover the answers.
On the flip-side, Tyson entertained a question about the meaning of life and the philosophy of something rather than nothing in this Universe. I was blown away by the scientific method of his answer. Tyson warned us not to burn brain cells thinking about philosophical questions that cannot be answered. What is the sound of one hand clapping, he asked, when we've already defined clapping as two hands hitting each other? We first need to ask the right question and then we can seek out an answer, meanwhile, Tyson said he'll be in the lab discovering new particles.
When someone in this world has such a clear drive, it's intoxicating. We're scared of the friends who dare to become famous worldwide for their art. We're confused by the bridge-burners, quitting jobs with no thought of consequence and just the knowledge that they need out.
Re-reading Seth Godin's The Icarus Deception, I found this quote particularly useful to describe this reflection of the world: "This is a lousy time to be an industrialist, a lousy time to hope for reliable, predictable demand. A lousy time to expect to extract unreasonable profits by making average stuff for average people. A lousy time, especially, to be a well-paid middle manager who does what he's told in exchange for a safe job."
We need to find the passion for it all to exist. Somewhere deep down it's inside us and we can't be afraid to release it. It's not going to be easy and it's not always going to be fun, but the big question becomes "When will you risk it?"
Until next time...
I explode into space.