Dear Professor Brian Cox,
I have an absolute man-crush on you. I am not ashamed to say that I love you and what you stand for. Although I am a married man with three children and a loving wife, I feel I need to share my thoughts about why I love you so much. My family laugh and roll their eyes whenever I mention your name. Whenever I sit alone at night and watch one of your documentaries, or quote one of your lines, my children tease me. They think that my love for you is daft, but I believe that it is pure. As pure as science.
Firstly, I love your mind. It’s the kind of mind that I wish I had, but know that I’ll never have. I don’t have a maths brain you see. I write poetry. I can’t get my head around figures. When I was in grade seven my teacher, Mr Turvey, used to humiliate me in front of the class for my poor maths quiz results. I was the School Captain. I was so frightened of failing each Friday morning test that I resorted to cheating. It didn’t help. Often, there was only the sole Aboriginal girl at the school and I left standing. He said he couldn’t believe that I was the School Captain and he made the Indigenous girl look him in the face. She reacted as if she’d been burnt by boiling water as he forced her to look at him. We were both ashamed. I love you because I know you would never do this to a child. I love you because you inspire children with your words, not destroy them.
I love how you connect the audience with your early awakening of science by sharing your childhood memories. Pictures of supernovae painted onto rock faces in South America that you saw in Carl Sagan’s grand book, ‘Cosmos’, you have gone and seen for yourself, sharing your youthful dreams with us, your adoring viewers. I love it how you are selfless. I love it how we both have kept books from our childhoods that meant something more than we could know. Texts that mattered then and still matter to us now. Mine is, “The Osborne Book of the Future” that my children now pore over, their fingers dog-earing intergalactic space. Sadly it is out of date. Science has caught up with the fantastic concepts of my past. Green cities with lush gardens and solar panelled windows are now commonplace. I point out the ‘future’ technology that has come to pass for my son and daughter, my youthful naivety slipping away into fiction, as their scientific present turns these memories into fact.
Yours with that photo taken by Sagan, of the rock art depicting the last star to die that was seen by human eyes hundreds of years ago in Peru maybe. I admire the pride you felt when you finally saw it with your own eyes, holding up your battered childhood paperback, the page with the photograph open, so that we could see the real and the facsimile that forged your early sense of wonder with the universe. After your rock and roll career that is. That grin of pure joy on your face, a pilgrim’s delight in reaching some holy place only dreamt of in distant legend. That point where childhood fantasy intersects with adult reality. Your smile, the same one you kept as a child in your corduroy pockets, wide as the Milky Way, white teeth twinkling like neutron stars. I love that.
Your love for space and astrophysics has driven me to write poetry about the history of space exploration. I’m writing poems about the Voyager spacecraft drifting out of our solar system like a plastic bottle kidnapped by the ocean’s currents and washed into deep space, from their point of view. The gold record of Earth’s sounds, songs, greetings and images welded to the fuselage, a small round sun glinting as other stars brush it with their faint light; silent as space, only waiting to find the right player to bring our planet to life.
The cicada hum of the cosmos microwave background serenading the frozen, fragile craft. Sagan was clever and left instructions for how to build one and how to find our galaxy, our pale blue dot. He attached a nude poster to its locker room door. He planned ahead. I love that you love what he did, as our tiny probes carry our love out into the vast universe. A single bee making its circuit throughout a field of eternal flowers. The dust of dead stars collecting like pollen on the delicate legs of radar antennae and their titanium exoskeleton.
I love your accent. The way Manchester’s protein gradients have evolved your pronunciation of ‘ing’ words to accelerate last ‘g’ sound. So I love it when you say words like ‘everything’ and ‘something’ in your mesmerising narration. You’ve repopularised the word ‘vast’. I find myself now using ‘vast’ in my own writing. I love how you inspire me more than some Facebook video of cats squeezing into boxes. Although to you, these could be Schrödinger’s cats, neither here, nor there. I want to dedicate a collection of poetry to you. Hopefully the space one, if I ever finish it, as it’s quite vast in scope. I’d love to meet you, book in hand and stare into your eyes, though I feel I would be the first one to lower my lashes; your intensity awes me at times, your passion for logic, and your feverish pursuit of knowledge. I wonder what you’d make of these poems. These inky atoms that bond together on a page and make up my admiration for you. I wonder what you would write if you ever autographed it. When you autograph a table setting with your calculations in some hot café outside a desert, I wish that I could understand them. I wish I could send you this love letter as an equation that you’d use as an analogy for some point about the gravity of my love.
See, I love the way you illustrate points about the universe using sauce bottles and sandcastles. You treat me as a layman and I love you for that, because I am one. I love it how you don’t make me feel ashamed for not knowing things. You’d never make me stand up in front of a class and be humiliated. You don’t talk down to me, but always up. I don’t often understand things of a scientific nature, but you make me feel as though I could. Then there was that time that your coffee cup was not an analogy for anything, not a planet or a distant star or molecule, it was just a lukewarm cup of Jo. Your ironic wit and the liquid’s heat radiating out into space. I loved that.
Finally, you comfort me when I think about my own inescapable death. You reassure me that I won’t truly die in a physical sense. That although my body will break down, my atoms – the star stuff you call it, will be recycled by the universe. I am comforted when you say that my atoms are eternal and that I will live on in other forms of matter – trees, soil mainly, but maybe even in stars that have not yet been born. We were all born when a star died two suns ago. You make me feel that my death will be something worthwhile, something material, that I will give back the thoughts of the universe given. I love you for that. It softens my father’s blow when I was eight, the same age my son is now.
I guess it’s safe to love you from a distance. I’m 45 years old and no longer have any close male friends. They have all drifted away like asteroids bunted from Jupiter’s gravitational belt. I haven’t spoken to my best friend for six years now. I don’t call up anyone on the phone. Texts are rare. Facebook comments rarer still. I am the distant Andromeda galaxy to their Milky Way. I have become insular, a bit down, and talk to no one about my emotional state. I act out. My wife hates that about me. Calls it my ‘stupid country ways’ which incidentally I’m going to call my new and selected poems. I talk to you in my mind’s eye though, almost like an imaginary friend. I love you because you accept me for who I am without ever knowing me. You do not judge, but weigh up the evidence. I love the good scientist in you.
If only you knew that I existed, that my love for you was some theory, tested and proven. I know that we’d talk planets and poetry and childhood and space and dying and atoms and red shift galaxies. I now know that love is faster than the speed of light.
There are only two things that are infinite; the universe and love. You make both possible.
B. R. Dionysius