Astrophysicists probe the nature of our universe — a place too vast and grand for a single human mind to fully comprehend — and while that might make some feel small, Neil deGrasse Tyson has said time and again that the knowledge he’s acquired over the years as an astrophysicist makes him feel not small, but big.
To deGrasse Tyson, knowledge is essential to leading a prosperous, meaningful life.
Even after publishing nearly a dozen books, narrating the hit series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, and directing the Hayden Planetarium in New York, deGrasse Tyson still tries to learn something new every day, he recently told 60 Minutes correspondent Charlie Rose.
Here are some of the few, but fundamentally important, life lessons that he says are his constant sources of inspiration.
“One of them is every day try to lessen the suffering of others by however amount,” he told Rose.
The way deGrasse Tyson does this is through his role as a science educator.
As host of the widely-popular podcast StarTalk Radio and Cosmos star, deGrasse Tyson strives to make the wonders of the universe accessible to all.
If you understand your connection to the universe — that we are all made of the same stuff as the tens of billions of stars in our galaxy — then that knowledge gives you a sense of relevance and connection that you might never feel otherwise. And, according to deGrasse Tyson, feeling relevant in the world is what we, as a species, look for in life.
“Also I try to learn something today that I did not know yesterday,” he told Rose. “Why not? There’s so much to learn.”
Learning new things isn’t just important for the brain, however. Several studies have found that people who regularly experience awe in their lives generally feel less stressed, more humble, and more satisfied too. So it’s in our best interest to seek out those special quirks that awe and inspire us as we learn more about life and the universe.
Last, but not least, deGrasse Tyson tries to live his life by following the advice of a 19th Century American politician and educator, Horace Mann: “Be ashamed to die until you’ve scored some victory for humanity.”
DeGrasse Tyson reiterated Mann’s words with his own.
“You want the world to be a slightly better place for you having lived in it,” he told Rose. “If you have the power and the influence to make it a slightly better place and you don’t, what kind of life is that?”
When deGrasse Tyson saw Mann’s quote for the first time, he decided that he would strive to one day deserve those words as his epitaph.
We think he’s doing a pretty good job so far.
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