This past weekend I was a groomsman in a good friend’s wedding. He had asked me to select a reading of some kind to be given during the ceremony, a piece that would speak about love without the trappings of the fantastical, the supernatural or the exceedingly religious. When I stopped and thought what kind of story best captured that humanistic ideal of love and marriage, I did a search for a story I had somewhat forgotten, about Ann Druyan and how she became engaged to Carl Sagan, and I found the NPR story that recounts it.
When I showed my friend this story, it immediately grabbed him, and we agreed upon the text which I recited at the wedding below:
This is the story of two scientists, Ann Druyan and the late, great Carl Sagan and how they spread love throughout the universe.
June 1st, 1977, two colleagues Ann and Carl had been looking for a piece of music to add to the “ultimate mix-tape…” A golden record that contained sounds from the human experience which was to be hurtled through the vastness cosmos for a billion years aboard the Voyager probes.
Amongst their primary purposes to take close-up pictures of Saturn and Jupiter, the hope was that these probes, and the mix tape, might be found by an alien civilization and thereby convey the story of life on Earth.
Druyan had phoned Sagan to express her excitement over discovering the perfect song to add to the record, but she was forced to leave a message. When Sagan called her back an hour later, he replied ‘…I find this message, and it says Annie called. And I say to myself — why didn’t you leave me this message 10 years ago?’ They had never even kissed before that call and prior to hanging up, they were engaged to be married.
In the days following, Annie had another idea for the recording: She would convert the electrical impulses of her human brain and nervous system into sound waves. She would meditate on, among other ideas, “the wonder of love, of being in love.”
Carl and Annie were married in 1981, and were together until Sagan’s untimely death in 1996. The Voyager probes, which are now well beyond the orbit of our solar system’s farthest planet, still carries that message of devotion and adoration to the farthest reaches of space.
Today, everyone here is a gold record for Michelle and Dave. We’ll carry a piece of this experience for them, and who knows, a 1,000 million years from now — there may still be an echo of this event for someone to hear.
I was honored to convey this story, and enjoyed the reaction it got from the wedding guests. However, I still feel compelled to point people to the full interview that Ann Druyan gave to Jad Abumrad in 2010. For whatever reason, if you can’t listen to the recording of the interview, here’s a little part of Ms. Druyan’s own words reminiscing about her touching personal story.
And my heart completely skipped a beat. I can still remember it so perfectly. And I said, for keeps? And he said, you mean get married? And I said, yes. And we had never kissed. Wed never, you know, even had any kind of personal discussions before. We both hung up the phone, and I just screamed out loud. I remember it so well because it was this great, eureka moment. And then the phone rang and I was thinking oh, you know, I – and the phone rang, and it was Carl, and he’s like, just want to make sure that really happened. Were getting married, right?
The full transcript of this soaring yet intimate story can be found here at NPR.
As for my friends, the bride and groom in the here and now, 2011 … well, things seem to have started off quite well. Six days from when they were wed, it will be the 34th anniversary of those Voyager probes taking off from Earth, and if the couple keeps in mind the words of Ms. Druyan:
Part of what I was thinking in this meditation was about the wonder of love, and of being in love. And to know it’s on those two spacecraft. Even now, whenever I’m down, you know, I’m thinking – and still they move, 35,000 miles an hour, leaving our solar system for the great, wide-open sea of interstellar space.
they might never lose that sense of wonder they experienced on their wedding day.