Zen Pencils and words of wisdom

By Phil Plait | February 27, 2012 11:37 am

I’m a big fan of Carl Sagan… of course. His books are simply amazing, and they are all worth your time reading. He had a way with words that made them not just profound, not just inspiring, but also warm and rich and enveloping.

He was a dreamer, an optimist, willing to look beyond the immediate problems we have now and see a better future, if only we could change our ways just a little bit.

I’m not the only person he affected. Zen Pencils, the nom de plume of young artist Gavin Aung Than, has been drawing web comics based on the words of wise people. He sent me a note via Twitter that he had one based on something Sagan said:

Click it to see the whole thing. Sagan’s words are wonderful, of course, but I like the added dimension Than has given them. You should check out the Zen Pencil archives to see what else he did, too, and you can also follow him on Twitter.


Related Posts:

On the birthday of Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan on SETI
We needn’t be afraid of the dark (a VERY powerful video featuring Sagan)
Pale Blue Dot
What I learned from Carl Sagan

Comments (22)

  1. Chris

    I think that’s more powerful than any religious message I ever heard.

  2. Thank you so much for this Phil – i’m glad you like my site. Sagan was my hero!

  3. He had a way with words that made them not just profound, not just inspiring, but also warm and rich and enveloping.

    Can I steal this description? That is a perfect summation, and why I think skeptics should read his works, even if they already hold a Ph.D. in Baloney Detection. :)

  4. Daniel J. Andrews

    I find Carl Sagan’s voice to be soothing and pleasantly hypnotic. Others think it sounds like Agent Smith from The Matrix.

    Hadn’t made that connection before, but now that is all I can hear….not sure if that is a good thing or bad thing. Oh darn, listened to ZenPencil’s link. That was well done.

  5. Justin

    “Luckily for him, Mohammad had been looking for a new ping pong partner ever since he axed his teenage daughter to death when she suggested he might have 72 *grapes* waiting for him after death.”

  6. mfumbesi

    I hadn’t read this comic before (ZEN Pencil that is) thank you for sharing.

  7. Sudro Brown

    Wow, thanks for linking to this Phil. The Sagan ‘toon was great, but his Herbert ‘toon sent chills up my spine. I bookmarked his site right under Penny Arcade on my Comics list.

  8. DrB

    The only thing dubious in this quote is the line about there being “little good evidence” for the pretty stories religion tells. I haven’t noticed _any_ personally.

  9. Mister Earl

    Speaking as one who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom:

    … I love this comic. It rings true, and it is another reminder that Sagan was seriously ahead of his time.

  10. Chris L

    Sagan’s words are wonderful, the cartoon not so much. Sorry, but I can’t really accept the moral equivalence involved here. I don’t think people who fly airliners into buildings (or the people who protected them) are the same as soldiers sent off to prevent such actions from happening again. The whole thing is a bit too “kumbaya” to me.

  11. amphiox

    Chris L, methinks that specter of “moral equivalence” you see comes from your own internalized preconceptions, not the cartoon.

  12. Gary Ansorge

    I love these cartoons that impel thought.

    Then there is this(which is NOT a cartoon);

    http://www.themandus.org/

    A new proposition that seeks to answer how we became the weird, naked apes we are in such a short time(think; population bottleneck and Neanderthal predation).

    ,,,and why we can be both compassionate beings and such destructive pricks, at the same time,,,hey, it’s all about adaptation,,,

    Gary 7

  13. Chris L

    amphiox,
    You are entitled to your opinion on this, but I think the facts back my conclusion here pretty well. Both men are firing at each other. Both men get hit and go to their culture’s version of “heaven”. Both men decide to stop trying to kill each other and live happily ever after. That sounds like equivalence to me. Of course, YMMV.

  14. Nigel Depledge

    Chris L (11) said:

    I don’t think people who fly airliners into buildings (or the people who protected them) are the same as soldiers sent off to prevent such actions from happening again.

    This needs more detail.

    Why are the differences so significant?

  15. Chris L

    The former involves killing innocents in the name of some imaginary friend and the later is a form of collective self defense.

  16. Gary Ansorge

    16. Chris L

    Actually, “the former” were mere foot soldiers in the service of Bin Laden, who wanted to drive a wedge between the USA and the Saudi Royals. He thought he would make a much better King,,,

    Granted, SOME suicide bombers are convinced they’ll go to paradise,,,and some people believe in Santa,,,

    Gary 7

  17. Chris L

    Gary7,
    I see your point. While Bin Laden’s own motives were less than religious, he was more than willing to use belief in the invisible sky dude (and his “superior” knowledge of what said sky dude wants from the faithful) to recruit and control his followers. His was hardly a unique use of the deity concept to be sure, just a very obvious one.

  18. Len F

    I note that the cartoonist has drawn the flying bullets with the cartridges still attached. Well, he hasn’t drawn the cartridges being ejected while the weapons are being fired, so at least it’s consistent!

  19. Nigel Depledge

    Chris L (16) said:

    The former involves killing innocents in the name of some imaginary friend and the later is a form of collective self defense.

    So in what way is sending your troops to invade a country that hasn’t a hope of mounting a serious assault on your homeland “self-defence”?

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