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Sakharov’s Nobel Address


Thousands of years ago tribes of human beings suffered great privations in the struggle to survive. In this struggle it was important not only to be able to handle a club, but also to possess the ability to think reasonably, to take care of the knowledge and experience garnered by the tribe, and to develop the links that would provide cooperation with other tribes. Today the entire human race is faced with a similar test. In infinite space many civilizations are bound to exist, among them civilizations that are also wiser and more “successful” than ours. I support the cosmological hypothesis which states that the development of the universe is repeated in its basic features an infinite number of times. In accordance with this, other civilizations, including more “successful” ones, should exist an infinite number of times on the “preceding” and the “following” pages of the Book of the Universe. Yet this should not minimize our sacred endeavors in this world of ours, where, like faint glimmers of light in the dark, we have emerged for a moment from the nothingness of dark unconsciousness of material existence. We must make good the demands of reason and create a life worthy of ourselves and of the goals we only dimly perceive.

Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov, “Peace, Progress and Human Rights,” the Nobel Prize Lecture, delivered on December 11, 1975 (today is the 32nd anniversary of its delivery).  I got this from Harper’s, today is the 32nd anniversary of that speech.

I found this really powerful and moving.  Both because of the ennobling view of an infinite cosmos and because generally it’s just a powerful way of stating what I feel about the world.  Also in the same frame is the movie se7en‘s “Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.’ I agree with the second part.”  Every Tuesday is free association day, apparently.  Screw Prince Spaghetti day, that’s weak sauce.
What is this goal we only dimly perceive?  Godliness?  It sounds like Sakharov is postulating godliness for a godless universe.  Maybe he means cleanliness which is next to godlessness.


Is this godly?  Whatever.  It’s just an interesting philosophical speculation.  What about the universe demands that we be worthy of it?  Why is ‘being worthy of the universe’ not an inherently cynical proposition?  It’s something I was thinking about today, when I read his speech.

sacred endeavors:  go!

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