Article image

13 Carl Sagan Quotes on Life, the Universe, and the Cosmic Perspective

When Carl Sagan studied the universe, he saw more than data and science. Known for popularizing and promoting public understanding of astronomy, the famed scientist was as much a creative thinker and writer as he was a planetary expert. He thought deeply about science and our solar system, seeing the forest for the trees, and the universe’s lessons among the “star stuff,” a term he made famous in an episode of his 13-part 1980s television show, Cosmos.

“We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from,” Sagan said on his show. “We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff.”

With profound lessons like this, Sagan applied a cosmic perspective to the human experience. He found awe in the interconnectedness of humans, Earth, and the solar system, and felt humbled learning that the same carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms in our bodies were created by the stars some 4.5 billion years ago.

Sagan shared his scientific findings and life musings  on his popular TV show and in several influential books, including Cosmos (which accompanied the show), Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, and Contact, which was made into a 1997 film starring Jodie Foster.

His primary goal was to make planetary science more accessible. A leader in the country’s early space endeavors, he undoubtedly succeeded — and inspired countless people along the way. Nearly 25 years after his passing, many still turn to Sagan for inspiration and grounding.

Here are 13 of his lasting lessons on what the universe can teach us about life.

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.

Share Quote

For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.

Share Quote

Our preferences do not determine what’s true.

Share Quote

The Universe is not obliged to conform to what we consider comfortable or plausible.

Share Quote

Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.

Share Quote

There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

Share Quote

Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious.

Share Quote

The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff.

Share Quote

Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still. We have lingered long enough on the shores of the cosmic ocean. We are ready at last to set sail for the stars.

Share Quote

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.

Share Quote

Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact.

Share Quote

In meeting people, it's rare that what I'm impressed by is their intelligence. There's much more likelihood that what I'm impressed by is their compassion, their optimism, their sense of humor-things of that sort I find much more compelling.

Share Quote

The visions we offer our children shape the future. It matters what those visions are. Often they become self-fulfilling prophecies. Dreams are maps.

Share Quote

Featured image credit: Jonatan Pie/ Unsplash

Author image
About the Author
Stephanie Vermillion
Stephanie is an Ohio-based writer and photographer who's never met a slice of pizza she didn't like — or inhale.
Play more header background
Play more icon
Daily Question
Fill in the blank: "___ consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” - Pope John Paul II

More Inspiration

happiness theme icon

Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.

separator icon
Mary Shelley
motivation theme icon

If one has no sense of humor, one is in trouble.

separator icon
Betty White
hope theme icon

If you look for perfection, you will never be satisfied.

separator icon
Leo Tolstoy
love theme icon

Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

separator icon
C.S. Lewis
wisdom theme icon

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

separator icon
Seneca
happiness theme icon

Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.

separator icon
Henry Miller
motivation theme icon

In a dark time, the eye begins to see.

separator icon
Theodore Roethke
hope theme icon

Art is made in hindsight.

separator icon
Virgil Abloh
love theme icon

Blessed are the hearts that can bend; they shall never be broken.

separator icon
Albert Camus
wisdom theme icon

When you run into something interesting, drop everything else and study it.

separator icon
B.F. Skinner
happiness theme icon

Whatever you are, try to be a good one.

separator icon
William Makepeace Thackeray